With the final flourishes of paintbrush, needle, and thread, textile artist Mariko Kobayashi wrapped up the guest room turned artwork u201cEnu201d (room 3101) last summer. The once-drab room in the Park Hotel Tokyo now bursts with color: A flowering tree blooms above the headboard, a bird soars across the ceiling, forest creatures scamper along the walls. Connecting them all is a bright red cord, the en, which the Japanese believe links all living beings. The site-specific installation is the last of 31 redesigned guest rooms, all on the 31st floor of the hotel, a grand experiment that has breathed new life into a formerly foundering property.
u201cWe knew we had to do something,u201d says hotel manager and project curator Atsushi Ono, who explains that Japanu2019s financial malaise and fierce hospitality industry competition had the then-10-year-old hotel struggling for overseas bookings. u201cThe economic shock really affected our foreign guests. I thought art might be a way to express Japanese culture and attract foreign guests.u201d
Over the course of five years, Ono commissioned artists from across Japan to reinvigorate a selection of guest rooms, with the simple instruction that he or she u201cmust express the theme of Japanese aesthetics.u201d Yuki Ninagawau2019s serene floral paintings enliven the u201cJapanese Angelu201d room (3103), while Shiki Tairau2019s u201cMount Fujiu201d room (3110) features a bright red torii gateu2013inspired entryway and is covered in Japanese deities, as well as the iconic mountain. Other rooms feature samurai swords and cherry blossoms, dazzling geishas and hulking sumo wrestlers. The program has proven successful for the hotel and artists alike. u201cIn some cases, our guests have contacted the artist after their stay to commission more work,u201d Ono says.
While only the rooms on the 31st floor have been redesigned thus far, Ono hopes the project will mark the beginning of something bigger. u201cIf it were up to me,u201d he says, u201cIu2019d redecorate every one of the hotelu2019s 270 rooms.u201d