Can A Hotel Stay Be A Way Of Giving Back? Yes, Says Founder Of Trunk Hotel Yoshitaka Noijiri
In 2018, over 30 million international travellers visited Japan, a statistic that reflects the country's widespread appeal as a tourist destination as well as the fervour as its capital Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games in 2020. Tokyo remains the gateway for many travellers, and although it is undisputedly one of the coolest cities in the world, there were few hotels that genuinely reflected its inimitable soul until Trunk Hotel, a member of Design Hotels, opened its doors in 2017.
The brainchild of entrepreneur Yoshitaka Nojiri, Trunk Hotel has everything a boutique hotel lover looks for—sleek interior design, strong curation (even the music is hand-picked by a critic), and an emphasis on championing local initiatives. On the surface, it stands out for its stylish sensibility, but its underlying substance is what truly sets it apart. Central to the brand is a concept called “socializing”, referring to the idea of connecting with others and giving back to society in a creative way. Here, Nojiri shares how a hotel can go beyond being a place to stay and become an agent for change.
Why did you create the Trunk brand around “socializing”?
Yoshitaka Nojiri (YN) The idea of “socializing” first came to mind after the financial crisis of 2008 and the tsunami in 2011. I believe that these tumultuous periods resulted in a shift in societal values. It’s not just about affluence anymore—many people wanted to help others and give back to society, but frankly there was no cool way of doing it.
Through Trunk, I wanted to provide a tasteful way of giving back as well as a means for people to do this in their daily life and not just after disasters. For instance, a great number of the products we use in the hotel are sourced from small local companies and charities that embrace an eco-friendly direction. Of course, as a hotel, “socializing” also means fostering connections with others. At Trunk Hotel, we accept anyone and everyone and promote the value of the human connection.
What drew you to open the hotel in Shibuya?
YN I was born and raised in Shibuya, so it was an easy choice for me. This district is the birthplace of trends in Tokyo as well as the centre of youth culture. Since we opened Trunk, we noticed that the flow of the people into Shibuya has changed. In the past, it was dominated by street culture but now, there is a notable increase in sophistication, too.
Why did you choose to work with different young designers?
YN Architect Kengo Kuma is a close friend of mine and I could’ve asked him or someone of the same calibre to design the Trunk Hotel. As the entire ethos of the hotel is to give back to society, I felt that it was right to work with lesser‑known names. I think offering young designers a chance to prove themselves is also a way of helping society.
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What would you consider the biggest achievement since you opened?
YN Well, one reason I know this project is successful is that the value of the land has doubled (laughs). The most important aspect for me, however, is how we have made people understand the “socializing” concept. Working with various charities and bringing their products into the space and being able to elevate the act of giving back defines true success. A hotelier is not supposed to be a social worker but at the Trunk Hotel, we are able to be one in our own way.
What does the future hold for Trunk as a hospitality brand?
YN Most would think of opening in New York or Paris as the next logical step. I think this development model is boring; focusing on who we really are and where we are really from is far more interesting for me. As such, I plan to expand to other neighbourhoods within Tokyo, creating a Trunk Hotel with a distinct concept unique to its surroundings.
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