Luxury Hotels

Ultra luxury hotel group Aman debuts a more affordable spin-off in Tokyo

Aman Resorts’ first Janu hotel in Tokyo’s luxe Azabudai Hills costs half as much as its upmarket sibling. Here’s an exclusive first look inside

Janu’s opening in Tokyo represents the second time that Aman has tested a new concept in Japan’s capital

Aman Resorts, arguably the world’s most exclusive hotel brand, has for 35 years made its name by charging eye-popping nightly rates — often exceeding $2,000 (€1,850) — as the price of hyper-luxurious seclusion.

Guests stay in stand-alone villas or sky-high penthouses; when they engage with local culture, it’s often via visits to elite ateliers that are inaccessible to the general public.

Its new spinoff brand, Janu, seeks to do the opposite. Opened on March 13 in central Tokyo, the first Janu hotel ha s 122 rooms across the lowest floors of a luxury residential tower, and its guests will be encouraged to circulate locally.

In a bid to court a younger demographic— and create a more scalable model — it also promises (somewhat) more democratic pricing. Aman Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Vladislav Doronin says the brand has at least 12 additional destinations set for development, with further Janu hotels opening after next year.

With low-season rates running from $944 (€870) per night (in its opening month, rooms will average about €1,320 per night), Janu costs about half as much as a room at the Aman Tokyo in a nearby area.

That price still puts Janu among the most expensive places to stay in Tokyo; its membership club offering for locals, Janu Wellness Collective, is pricey, too, with an initiation fee of €20,300. According to spokespeople for Janu, the hotel is fully booked for its opening day and anticipates 70 per cent occupancy in its first month.

Janu’s opening in Tokyo represents the second time that Aman has tested a new concept in Japan’s capital. In 2014, it opened Aman’s first urban location in an office building right in front of Tokyo Station in the heart of the city’s main business district.

Aman has enjoyed fortuitous timing in Japan. In 2014, the launch of a government initiative to promote tourism as a driver of economic growth helped the number of visitors to Japan spike in the ensuing years.

Now, Janu is opening amid another travel boom post pandemic, with Japan’s monthly visitors already outstripping 2019 levels. With the yen weak, visitors are spending more, too, particularly on experiences and lodging, according to government data. The trend should serve Janu well.

Ahead of the opening, Bloomberg was given the first tour of the property, as well as exclusive access to Aman’s executives. Here’s a look inside — along with insights from Doronin on Janu’s aggressive expansion plan.

How the brands compare

Aman means ‘peace’ in Sanskrit, and Janu means ‘soul’ Doronin explains, distinguishing the brands’ philosophies. The difference manifests on first impression. At most luxury hotels in Tokyo — Aman included — unassuming elevators whisk you from a corporate lobby entrance to a sky lobby some 40 stories above.

If this intentionally severs you from the hustle and bustle of city life, Janu keeps you immersed in it. Here, sliding double doors at the ground level are more welcoming, and the lobby is on floor 5, barely above the tree line.

The lobby’s floor-to-ceiling windows come face-to-face with the middle tier of Tokyo Tower, which makes for prime people-watching over a grassy courtyard that’s filled with statues and has a small stream.

On a recent Friday, we settled into cosy lounge chairs to sample the patisserie’s offering of tiramisu and raspberry mousse in the shape of a rose flower and to momentarily spy on young families, a pair of jugglers entertaining passers-by and an occasional office worker.

Janu offers eight dining options with concepts rooted in the culinary traditions of Asia, and others embracing their European influence by way of patisserie and Italian cuisine
The Janu Grill restaurant celebrates the simple pleasures of cooking over direct heat

Janu’s overarching goal is to make guests curious about exploring the local community, and to entice locals in rather than keep them out. Janu offers eight dining options, plus a 4,000-square-meter (43,056-square-foot) wellness area comprising a spa and gym, one of the largest such facilities in Tokyo.

The restaurants are especially notable: most luxury hotels in Tokyo avoid extensive food and beverage offerings since it’s so challenging to compete with the world’s largest concentration of Michelin stars.

Restaurants at Janu aiming for such recognition include the Italian dining hall Mercato; a sushi restaurant called Iigura, whose omakase will run 35,000 yen (€220); artistic dim sum at Hu Jing; and Janu Grill, a New York-inspired steakhouse with a 2,300-bottle wine cellar. By contrast, Aman Tokyo has just two places to eat in addition to its lobby lounge.

Rooms here will feel familiar to Aman veterans — a comparison no brand would turn down. The style is dominated by neutral tones and clean, straight lines. It’s an expensive, soothing look that Aman popularised and has largely been adopted by luxury hotels so much so it borders on generic today.

The Deluxe Room at Janu
The Tower View Suite at Janu

The rooms are generous in space, with double vanities in the bathrooms and large soaking tubs with views of Tokyo Tower, which we admired during a tour of the hotel’s 10th-floor rooms and suites. (Unlike at Aman, there are options to connect rooms here — a boon for families.) Cost savings come largely from being located on relatively lower floors.

“For Aman, we wanted to keep the DNA — to keep the private, calming sanctuary, a place to retreat,” Doronin says. “With Janu, we wanted to be more playful and energetic.”

Nowhere is this clearer than in the programming, both in terms of fitness and city-based activities, that consists of €55 boxing lessons (there will be eight to 12 group fitness classes every day) and pop culture-focused experiences. Although the list is still being finalised, one idea being floated is getting dressed for a photoshoot around Tokyo with a cosplay artist.

Giving the people what they want

Doronin says Janu is a brand dreamed up by its guests — ‘Amanjunkies’ as loyalists are called — and the concept took four years to develop.“Our guests asked us to create something aligned with Aman, but different.”

Travel agents are already predicting high demand; some compare Janu with Equinox, the gym-owned hotel in Manhattan that’s been popular with well-heeled millennials. The comparison is apt: both are highly luxurious and wellness-focused without rarefied airs or boundary-pushing price tags. A room at the Equinox Hotel will similarly cost about €830 a night, and that brand says it has a pipeline of 33 hotels set to open in the coming decade.

However, Equinox suffered from poor timing. It opened in Manhattan’s not-so-successful Hudson Yards development months before Covid-19 struck. As a result, its future hotel plans lack concrete detail; Doronin, by contrast, says Janu deals have been inked, with construction underway, in locations that include South Korea, Turks and Caicos Islands, Saudi Arabia, Montenegro and the Maldives.

Doronin says the Janu concept has been very well received and that h e’s had to turn down requests to open more of them in Tokyo.

“I will keep Aman very, very unique and very private,” he explains, indicating that the premium brand can scale only so much before it becomes diluted. “But with Janu, we can create one more hotel, like in Tokyo.” By adding a Janu property in a city served by Aman, he can capture spillover demand from Aman without encroaching on that brand’s cachet.

The concept can work particularly well as part of a broader development such as Tokyo’s Azabudai Hills, a sprawling area filled with luxury shops, Japan’s tallest building and expensive residences.

The property is owned by Mori Building Co., famed for being the first to build high-end mixed-use developments in central Tokyo and altering the capital’s skyline with skyscrapers.

Not only does Janu proffer some energy to the formerly sleepy Azabudai area, which is close to the more buzzy Roppongi neighbourhood, the new development returns the favor by supplying a crowd of high-end condo owners to patronize the hotel’s restaurants and gym.

Janu’s wellness space comprises Tokyo’s largest gym (340 sqm), a 25m swimming pool, five group movement studios, seven treatment rooms, two Spa Houses and a hydrotherapy area with a Hammam or Banya

The gym won’t face much competition in central Tokyo, where high-end offerings are scarce. That’s one reason Tom Sawayanagi, founder of Tokyo-based hotel consultancy Brain Picks, thinks the property will draw local working professionals—even at steep prices for Janu Wellness Collective membership.

“There is excess demand for high-end spa fitness membership clubs in Tokyo,” explains Sawayanagi.

Janu is currently taking applications for membership, and those interested should be prepared to pay up. In addition to the €20,310 initiation fee, monthly charges of around €555 will enable access to a proper boxing ring, a spin studio, virtual golf, meditation rooms and a heated 25-meter-long (82-foot) pool. Members of Aman Club, which launched with Aman’s New York location in 2022, will be able to access most of the Janu facilities.

The hotel will have to do some heavy lifting to draw in a vibrant, local crowd beyond the residents of Azabudai Hills’ glossy towers, which will be necessary to fill so many venues. (When asked, Doronin said he was confident about the brand’s appeal in Japan considering how well Aman Club memberships have sold in the country; still, the sight of empty restaurants would not enhance Aman’s luster).

Considering the Japanese consumer’s penchant for patronising things new and buzzy, it probably won’t be difficult to draw crowds initially. The question is whether Janu will display the staying power to keep local customers — and travellers — coming back.