Café Company, a Japanese food and beverage empire, had some cool ideas for its first hotel, Wired, in a quirky Tokyo neighborhood. For one, the hotel would incorporate a hostel-style budget floor, “regular” hotel rooms, and luxury suites, all under the same roof.
The challenge: getting an international clientele excited. For help, the budding hoteliers looked across the Pacific to a city that has enjoyed a strange (but undeniably fun) vogue in Japan for some time.
Portland creative firm OMFGCo—known here for its 2012 makeover of horse-racing track Portland Meadows and, more recently, for helping a cannabis shop devise the amazing name Electric Lettuce and a ’60s-retro concept—stepped in. Wired’s inclusive set up and its neighborhood, Asasuka, resonated with the Portlanders, 4,835 miles away.
“People have an image of Tokyo which is usually based on Shibuya—the craziness, the sheer overwhelm,” says OMFGCo cofounder Jeremy Pelley. “But this neighborhood feels a lot more small-town and intimate, full of knife makers, handmade-paper makers, and leatherworkers.”
The hotel could become a testing ground for luring travelers into neglected parts of Japan. “Outside of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka,” Pelley says, “tourism is failing, and gorgeous cities with lots to offer are dying.” Wired’s business model and focus on hyper-local culture is built to expand in a nation full of artisans, historic sites, and natural areas.
OMFGCo worked on interior design details, including a noren fabric screen near the front desk and signage for the third floor, which the 10-story building’s elevator doesn’t serve. “We were doing some obvious wayfinding signage,” says cofounder Fritz Mesenbrink. “But we realized we should just sell it as the ‘secret floor.’ It makes it fun and special. It’s a psychological solution instead of an expensive one.”