Born in Shibuya, Tokyo, TRUNK(HOTEL) is the first boutique hotel of TRUNK Co., Ltd. A brand new hotel with its unique “Socializing” concept, we welcome many domestic and international guests. We have built TRUNK(HOTEL) carefully over a long course of time, about 5 years from conception to completion. HR Director Yasuhide Ichikawa, who has worked closely with TRUNK President Nojiri through the entire process of preparing, talks about the circumstances and behind-the-scenes of the trial and error process.

After visiting hotels around the world, the answer was a “boutique hotel.”

Please tell us about the time when the plans for TRUNK(HOTEL) were created.

About five years ago, when I was in charge of human resources at TRUNK(HOTEL)’s parent company, Take and Give Needs Co., Ltd, it was decided that the company would take on the challenge of building a hotel as part of its new growth strategy. After the decision was made, I was transferred to Creative Center Department and began working with President Nojiri toward that purpose. Our first task was to grasp the current situation of the hotel industry. To that end, we made inspection tours to see hotels in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, London, Paris, even Sweden and Denmark in Northern Europe.

As a result, we found independent hotels with strong messages and unique characters far more appealing than conventional luxury hotels, which already exist in Japan. We experienced everything through our five senses, ranging from design, service provided by the staff, BGM, fragrance and vibes, and decided it would be great to have a hotel like that in Japan. That is how the TRUNK(HOTEL) project began.

Create a building that is not only cool but has a strong message

How did you decide on the concept?

Originally, we focused on making the hotel look attractive, but after about one year and a half, we realized that anyone could build a good-looking hotel as long as they were ready to invest a large amount of money, and the definition of “good-looking” would change over time. The appearance will deteriorate, so if the appearance is the only good point, our competitors will eventually defeat us. For the project to receive the support from the local communities and the general public, we would require a core message or something to believe in. So we began to delve into our inner philosophy and what we wanted to achieve in this project.

Making social contributions a new business scheme.

As a result, we reached the four keywords that would eventually become our core values—originality, innovation, sincerity, and contribution—and from there, we created a new concept of “socializing.” Socializing means doing business and at the same time solving social issues around the world and disseminating the concept itself. The more profitable we become, the more we can contribute to the world. We wanted to take on the challenge of creating a business scheme where each sale would lead to more opportunities to solve social issues.

From there, we went back to square one and looked at every aspect from the “socializing” standpoint. From interior décor to products that would be sold, we reviewed and re-reviewed whatever would be associated with the hotel and decided on everything one by one.

How do you judge whether something conforms to the “socializing” concept?

How do you judge whether something conforms to the “socializing” concept?

In bringing the “socializing” concept into reality, we based our decision on “good taste.” “Good taste” means something that satisfies people’s desire in a positive way, like “cool” space, “delicious” food or “fun” event. For example, when we hold an event that would directly lead to social contribution, it cannot be something boring. First of all, good taste should always be expressed 100 %, and the next challenge is how much “socializing” element we can add, that is, how many elements that would lead to social contribution could be added. Conversely, if the “good taste” element lowers to 70 or 80% when the “socializing” element become 100% it will be unacceptable for us.

Without playing tough, we offer easier-to-join social contribution opportunities to our valued guests

If it’s furniture, we choose Made in Japan products because they are exceptional. Some of the artwork in the hotel are outsider art and other works are procured from people with disabilities in Japan, because they are cool. Old lumber is used in the bar lounge because it creates a nice atmosphere. The degrees of their social contribution may vary, but they bring people together by creating space where “good taste” can be felt. As a result, perhaps without being aware of it, our guests are automatically participating in socializing activities.

The front desk area design that dispels the stereotype of a hotel

So, you mean just visiting the hotel leads to some social contribution.

That’s correct. For that reason, we thought of creating a place where it would be comfortable for many people to spend time, not limited to our hotel guests. What would normally be the front desk area of a hotel is where TRUNK(HOTEL)’s bar is located, the space in front of it has been prepared with various types of seating and tables, from sofas to single seats to tables with electrical outlets, so it can be used for a variety of purposes.

In addition, we examined every detail about the amenities we provide for our hotel guests; for example, we carefully selected our toothbrush with outstanding design and durability, which comes with a case, so that our guests will want to bring home for use. Likewise, our room slippers are not disposable but rather solid. We believe that it offering what people want to us for a long time instead of single-use products will ultimately lead to socializing.

As a place where people can take an interest in social contribution.

This certainly sounds reasonable.

From recycling to reusing to choosing organic products, there are various ways of social contribution. Instead of being single-minded, we adopt a flexible approach in socializing to best fit the situation. Socializing shouldn’t involve people having to give up something or making sacrifice. We would like people to do whatever they can easily do in their everyday life; otherwise, they won’t be able to carry on. Some people can spend 20% of their daily life in social contribution activities, while others may spend 50%. We don’t need to push ourselves to make 100% contribution; If each of us becomes more aware of socializing in their life, a more prosperous and sustainable world will await us. If you use TRUNK(HOTEL) as an option for making such contribution and feel good about it, that will make us happy, too.

The reason why Shibuya, Tokyo was chosen as the location of TRUNK(HOTEL).

Hotels and the socializing concept seem to be quite compatible.

A hotel is a place where people gather, so it has a great potential to deliver important messages. It is a place to convey something new, and a business with full of opportunities to reach people through clothing, food and shelter. Considering this, we thought that Shibuya had a great potential where socializing could be conveyed as a new concept, and new ideas could be spread. Just a few steps from the main streets, this has long been the area where people skillfully find out new culture and disseminate it. For me, this neighborhood is like Brooklyn, New York, which is just steps away from downtown Manhattan but distinct culture has been well developed.

Shibuya, the base to send new messages

We don’t know yet if boutique hotels will be successful in the hotel industry, but we firmly believe so. Here we want to embody our keywords, including the environment and health that are reinterpreted within the socializing concept, by taking root in the local community and sending messages that focus on Shibuya. To this end, this area is a valuable place to send our messages.

The first steps for increasing awareness of boutique hotels in Japan.

Please explain your goals.

The first step is people recognize this hotel as a place with statements, not if they understand the concept of “socializing.” It’s not about just being luxurious or extraordinary— if people become aware that boutique hotels have distinct messages and offer something unique, they will be able to grow and form a new market.