“At the core of every memorable experience is people”

A distinctive personality

Mesm Tokyo mesmerises and inspires


April 2020 Business Spotlight / Text by Andrew Howitt / Photos by Benjamin Parks

The iconic David Bowie had many faces (and hairstyles) over the more than four decades of his career. He led trends in music and fashion, and he inspired millions, including — as Bowie persona Ziggy Stardust might describe him — “some cat from Japan” with a “screwed down hairdo”, Hisashi Oinuma, general manager of Mesm Tokyo, Autograph Collection, an urban luxury hotel in Hamamatsucho that opens this month.

I got into David Bowie in the mid-80s when he had a really cool pompadour, so I grew my hair out and I started styling it that way,” explains Oinuma. “When I got my first job at a hotel, I was told that I couldn’t keep my hairstyle if it was long or dyed, so it settled down to what I have today. Their reasoning was that hoteliers are supposed to fade into the background — but I believe that expressing your individuality is very important.”

Continually evolving

Like Oinuma, Mesm Tokyo has developed its own distinctive personality, which is referred to as Tokyo Waves. Like Bowie, that personality is defined by continual evolution.

“We change like the waves,” states Oinuma. “We will regularly be updating, changing, and evolving here at the hotel while we give our guests the chance to experience the latest trends in Japanese music, art, fashion, and technology.”

This will be accomplished in a variety of ways, such as through frequent live music performances of up-and-coming musicians in the lobby and by displaying artwork by Japanese artists. Also, the staff’s uniform was designed specifically for Mesm Tokyo by Y’s Bang On!, a label created by the popular fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. And the high-end speakers installed around the hotel are the latest from Yamaha.

“The traditional is good, and there are accents of traditional Japan around the hotel,” Oinuma says. “But Tokyo’s a cool city, and I want more people to experience what it’s really like here today.”

Mesmerising the five senses

Mesm Tokyo, the latest addition to the portfolio of luxury hotels from Marriott International’s Autograph Collection, took its name from the word “mesmerise”. Everything in the hotel — the lobby, the 265 guest rooms, the restaurant, the bar, the banquet room, the fitness room, and the club lounge — has been designed to mesmerise each of the five senses and, by doing so, inspire guests and enrich their lives.

For example, original fragrances created for the hotel are being diffused throughout the first-floor entrance hall and the 16th-floor lobby. There’s also the tactile elegance of the high-quality furniture. And, in addition to the hotel’s visually striking design and art elements, the view is a stunning contrast between the cityscape of downtown Tokyo and the natural world, as it overlooks both the waterfront and the historic Hamarikyu Gardens.

Music has always been a significant part of Oinuma’s life — he learned to play the violin and the piano when he was young, and he sang and played bass in a band at university — so he has put a lot of effort into ensuring the guests’ ears are treated to a genuinely inspiring auditory experience.

“In the lounge, we play a curated playlist of several thousand songs by mostly Japanese musicians in all genres,” says Oinuma. “In every guest room are Casio digital pianos, which double as speakers, so guests don’t only get to listen to music here, they can play it, as well.”

The bistronomy-style French restaurant, Chef’s Theatre, and mixology bar, Whisk, are where Mesm Tokyo mesmerises guests’ taste buds. Chef’s Theatre offers high-quality meals in a relaxed atmosphere, and its open kitchen layout amplifies the dining experience with sounds, smells, and a lively energy.

Head Chef Koki Kumamoto’s signature course consists of five dishes, each encouraging guests to focus on one of their five senses. For instance, the amuse-bouche could be mistaken for a work of art, and the desert crackles, snaps, and crunches.

The cocktails by Whisk’s award-winning mixologists have also been created to delight the senses. Each of the 18 original drinks currently in its lineup were inspired by major works of art. For example, the cocktail based on Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” — made from Elderflower liqueur and Champagne syrup — is served on a shell and presented to guests in a vintage wooden box. When the box is opened, steam pours out and “Venus” appears.

“Other hotels don’t go as far as all this,” states Oinuma.



Star Service

Considering Oinuma’s passion for music, perhaps it’s no surprise that Mesm Tokyo staff are said to be “on stage” when they are out among guests.

“People who work at a hotel are like actors or musicians,” observes Oinuma. “We always have to be thinking about how our guests view us and what we can do for them.”

The Star Service Crew — as its staff are called — have been trained extensively so they are able to take on any role at a moment’s notice. Unlike many hotels where staff members are assigned to work in only one section, such as the front desk, the restaurant, or room service, there are no departmental divisions at Mesm Tokyo, so the staff acts as a single, flexible team.

“We’ve created our Star Service Crew to operate seamlessly,” he states. “If needed, each crew member can take care of any task in order to serve our guests in the best way possible. This approach is definitely unique.”

Oinuma also instills in his staff some of the beneficial practices he has formed himself. The karate principles of shin (mind), gi (technique), and tai (body) are important to Oinuma, but he believes that tai should come first, since taking care of your body and staying healthy are crucial for performing at your best.

The reason for investing so heavily in his staff is ultimately to ensure every guest leaves the hotel with a positive, lasting impression.

“At the core of every memorable experience is people,” Oinuma says. “No matter how beautiful an interior is, people’s memories of it will fade. But warm, two-way communication is something that people don’t forget.”

With easy access to the rest of Tokyo on the Yamanote Line, and to Haneda Airport on the Tokyo Monorail, Mesm Tokyo is perfectly placed for success.

“I want Mesm Tokyo to be more than just a hotel,” says Oinuma. “I want it to become a lifestyle icon of Tokyo.”

On his 50th birthday, David Bowie said something about himself that is equally true of Oinuma and Mesm Tokyo: “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” 

“I believe that expressing your individuality is very important”