Moxy Hotels: Japanese interior designers Wise Labo and Nomura Kougei are behind the look of Osaka and Tokyo's coolest hotels
Bang on trend
If Father John Misty's 'Real Love Baby' and Rhye's 'Summer Days' playing at a hotel lobby is enough to convince you to book a stay, then consider yourself a devotee to Moxy, Marriott's brand that debuted in 2015. Primed to be that sweet spot between a hotel and a hostel, it's not quite a 'posh-tel' nor is it for flashpackers only. It's for travellers who love the social opportunities and casual service in hostels, but would love an upgrade from the overcrowded dorms, capsules and shared showers of their youth.
Of course, it doesn't just take a great soundtrack to attach yourself to the currency of cool. Does it take 12 flamingo props, I wondered, as I sauntered about Moxy Osaka Honmanchi's lobby, my eye picking up on the trusty pink creature that's in every other hipster-approved, 'Instagrammable' joint. I had just arrived at my first stop of two Moxy Hotel visits, the next being Tokyo two days later. Situated in the Honmachi district of Osaka, Japan's buzzy gateway to regions such as Kyoto and Nara, Moxy Osaka Honmachi is a solution for those unwilling to compromise on style and comfort, without breaking the bank.
This is executed in a smart and unabashedly trendy design. It's not just about the flamingo count, the dart board or the foosball table smack in the middle of the expansive lobby, where its ceiling stretches two storeys high. The Moxy agenda is to keep things playful and edgy, which you'll gather from the way their staff communicate, the objects of curiosities displayed and their option to pimp your noodles — a feature that's specifically catered to Moxy properties in Asia, seeing how oodles of noodles are the staple food in the region. Next to the noodle station, a wheel dictated what I'll do for the rest of the day. After one spin, I was encouraged to 'shake that thing'. Before I left, another spin urged me to 'rethink my life'.
This was the morning after a restful sleep, which had me picking up after myself — literally. Knowing full well of the strict independence in a millennial traveller, Moxy leaves it up to you to decide whether you need a particular piece of furniture. Utility, of course, is the new luxury. A foldable chair and side table can be picked up and put away from the peg wall if you prefer to catch up on work in bed instead. Who needs a traditional cupboard when you can just hang your clothes on the wall and plan your OOTD the night before? You determine how to make your square foot area (and mind you, it's not a big one) work.
Wise Labo has taken the blueprint that Moxy Hotels has provided and injected it with an Osaka flavour that's more cool than kawaii. Osaka is a city of manufacturing, reflected in the industrial tones and textures in the hotel — you can spot iron sculptor Hideyuki Matsuda's work in the lobby. To give you a sense of place, the city's architecture and landscape are displayed at the get-go, with local artist Zenone mapping out motifs such as the Osaka castle and tower in a graffiti work. A subway route map has also been reinterpreted in an edgy three-dimensional take. In the library, framed cassette tapes were specifically chosen to trigger communication between different generations in a transition between what's now and then. Don't get us wrong, Moxy Hotels isn't just for millennials — it's for the millennial at heart.
Emphasising on activity rather than lodging, the designers have understood that a restaurant isn't just a restaurant — it's a convivial space where you can talk business ideas and creative collaborations over pimped up noodles. This duality is further echoed by the staff who are decked in black tees (tattoo sleeve optional, but preferred). The same person who checked you in could also be the same person who could provide much-needed liquid courage to strike up a conversation with that bearded, bespectacled Adonis you've been eyeing.
While Moxy Tokyo Kinshicho's lobby isn't as expansive, it's big on style, addressed by interior designers Nomura Kougei. Like its Osaka counterpart, the communal area is split into quiet and loud zones. The former features a library stocked with design, art and fashion tomes as well as a fireplace, while the latter keeps to the Moxy must-have of a foosball table and board games. One afternoon, the entire space was transformed for a sumo match. Yes, if watching two large, heavy-breathing Japanese men ritualistically take one another down isn't your idea of fun, then you probably don't belong to this crowd.
But if you prefer a more personal aural enjoyment and send the right signals to the staff, a Moxy hook-up awaits. Like what the term suggests, the hotel will hook you up to something unexpected based on your interests that they've sussed out — so show them some love on your social media channels if a record player suddenly pops up in your room.