30 Mar The Art Of Omotenashi – Japanese Hospitality at Aman Tokyo, Aman Kyoto & Amanemu
In Japan, the term omotenashi is often translated as ‘hospitality’ yet in practice it means much more. Its roots lie in the ritual of the tea ceremony, where it is both the responsibility and the honour of the host to meticulously and whole-heartedly perform the making and brewing of the perfect cup. Omotenashi, therefore, has two dimensions: the performance of the action and the sincerity and purity of the heart behind it.
This distinctly Japanese way of treating guests is the inspiration for the hospitality philosophy of Aman. Across the world, the passion and purpose of Aman hotels is to host with reverence for nature, peace and the beauty of simplicity. Nowhere is this better expressed than at Aman’s destinations in the three capitals of Japan: Tokyo, the modern capital; Kyoto, the ancient capital; and Ise Shima, its spiritual birthplace. Each of these celebrates the art of omotenashi in its own unique way, welcoming its guests with a distinctively Japanese combination of practised refinement and an honest, open heart.
AMAN TOKYO www.amantokyo.com
There is a Japanese expression, ‘kyouka suigetsu’, which translates as ‘mirror flower, water moon’ – a condensed form of the Chinese axiom ‘flower seen in the mirror, moon reflected on the water’s surface.’ It refers to the profound emotions triggered by something beautiful but untouchable – an encounter with the intangible sublime. At Aman Tokyo, this kind of sensation is created by the sight of the city’s vast skyline from the swimming pool high above street level. It is further triggered by exquisite artwork, like those encountered on the hotel’s Art Journey, an expert-guided exploration of Tokyo’s classical and contemporary galleries.
Artistry as centre stage
At Aman Tokyo’s restaurant, Mushai by Aman, master chef Musashi demonstrates another expression of omotenashi at his Hinoki wooden counter – the preparation of sushi. Among Japanese chefs, the making of sushi and sashimi is a vocation, demanding many years of patient practise to master the skills demanded. At Musashi by Aman, chef Musashi brings his lifelong dedication to a daily set menu in the omakase tradition, where diners are presented with dishes imagined from the market produce of the day and the creative talents of the chef.
AMAN KYOTO www.amankyoto.com
A profound sense of place
Aman Kyoto is a living tribute to the late master architect Kerry Hill, the visionary creator of all three of Aman’s Japanese destinations. He helped to define the Aman aesthetic, very much inspired by Japanese notions of beauty, where Aman Kyoto’s buildings have been designed with characteristic sensitivity to the surroundings, exhibiting a simplicity and elegance that enhances the natural beauty of the setting. Inside, bespoke pieces such as raku tile panels and tatami mats adorn walls and floors and, throughout, tokonoma alcoves showcase decorative objects and antiques crafted across the ages by the artists and artisans of Kyoto, Japan’s historic capital.
An ethereal landscape of Japanese maple trees, mature cedar, cypress, and camellia, the colours of Aman Kyoto’s garden shift with the seasons, marking time in changing shades of crimson, green and gold. The coming of spring in Kyoto is one of the most meditative periods of the year, bringing ‘hanafubuki’, the fluttering fall of cherry blossom, to the city. In Japanese culture, the beauty of this phenomenon lies in the impermanence it represents. This is uniquely captured by the term ‘mono no aware’, which describes a sensitivity to the poignance and pathos of knowing that the beauty of a thing must inevitably be lost.
The call of the homeland
Furusato is the Japanese word for ‘hometown’, but it is not so much a place as a feeling, laden with longing and nostalgia. In a sense, the Shima Peninsula is the furusato of omotenashi, as it is here, in what has been a destination for Japanese travellers, pilgrims and admirers of natural beauty for centuries, that the art of hospitality was born. The most revered of Japan’s Shinto Shrines are found in this forest realm, and the sense of the sacred is almost palpable. But it is not just spiritual solace that has brought people to this place throughout the ages, the physical healing promised by the mineral-rich hot-spring onsen like those at Amanemu has been a powerful lure for those in search of rejuvenation and replenishment, body and soul.
A moment to be savoured
What ‘mono no aware’ conveys for objects, ‘ichi-go ichi-e’ expresses for time. Another concept that originates in the ancient tea ceremony, this Japanese Buddhism-linked sentiment recognises that any given moment will never happen again and is even more beautiful for it. In a fast-paced, blink-and-miss it world, ‘ichi-go ichi-e’ is a reminder to slow down and appreciate each of life’s encounters since they only ever occur once – whether it’s a seafood lunch prepared by the pearl-diving ama of Ago Bay, morning prayers with the monks, or a sunset admired from the sunken lounge of ryokan-inspired retreat, Amanemu.
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