The W Osaka- Diving into the Osaka Vibe
The black monolith façade of the W Osaka caught my eye the instant I emerged from the nearest subway station and looked up towards the sky. Amongst the grey, Showa-era structures around it, this hotel designed by Ando Tadao stands out with a striking identity all its own. However, don’t let the sleek, monochrome appearance fool you! We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and the W Osaka reminded me to expect the unexpected.
My first introduction to this philosophy at the W Osaka came when I stepped into their Arrival Tunnel, an entrance inspired by the Japanese art forms of cutting and folding paper, kirigami, and origami. The tunnel was lit up pink in an ode to spring, and according to Amy, the hotel’s digital marketing specialist, the color changes every season. As I walked past a bright young couple taking selfies while I was dressed head to toe in black with a Comme des Garçons skirt and newly-colored dark hair… I couldn’t help feeling a bit like Wednesday Addams. After I passed the couple doing my best black cloud imitation, I looked around the space and saw nothing of the subdued and serene wabi-sabi culture of Kyoto I was so used to. This was Osaka— loud, vibrant and fun! And I was there to embrace and enjoy ALL of it.
The W Osaka emerged onto the Kansai hospitality scene in March 2021. In other words… during peak corona. While the hotel probably would have loved to open with more global guests, it looked like the hotel was doing just fine from what I could see. Locals were flocking to the restaurants and cafes, a group of middle-aged ladies took photos while they enjoyed their afternoon tea, and then there was the twenty-something gentleman on the terrace enjoying a cappuccino while he took a work Zoom call in the hotel’s Living Room.
While the hotel does draw inspiration from the local culture, at the same time it represents a large international brand and brings a new, vibrant energy into the city. There has been an influx of new luxury hotels opening in Kyoto, but surprisingly only a handful have opened in Osaka in recent years. With an atmosphere representing a fusion of global and local culture, the W Osaka is a breath of fresh air that will surely lead the way for others of its like.
More than just offering an amazing stay, the W Osaka also aims to shine a light on social issues such as LGBTQ rights and sustainability. For example, the kokeshi dolls in the Living Room represent diversity, and the hotel recently hosted a successful panel discussion where five bold and inspiring female panelists tackled issues regarding diversity and inclusivity. They also celebrate Pride Month! Starting from June 1st, the W Osaka is collaborating with the Nakamura Keith Haring Collection and offering a Pride Room, a room that is decorated with authentic work by pop artist Keith Haring.
The W Osaka hotel experience starts from the ground floor and continues all the way to the 27th. In Japan, it’s still pretty rare for a hotel to own their entire building, and the high vibe energy running throughout each unique and vibrant space offers guests an opportunity to experience the W brand in a different way. The Living Room is the social hub of the hotel where you want to meet your girlfriends for a colorful cocktail, the upstairs swimming pool and spa area is where you want to unwind in style under the soothing blue and pink lights, and the state-of-the-art gym is where you can sweat it out while looking down at the shoppers on Midosuji Street. Like any great luxury hotel, the W Osaka makes sure guests won’t go hungry or get bored by offering the choice of four restaurants and two bars. Not one for repetition, I had to appreciate that each restaurant boasts a different bold and flamboyant gourmet experience. As for me, I had a delicious breakfast at the hotel’s French restaurant, Oh.lala, where the menu is supervised by Michelin-starred chef Yusuke Takada of the famous La Cime.
When it comes to guest rooms, the W Osaka holds a whooping 337! Open the door to your room and you will be greeted by a breathtaking floor-to-ceiling city view of Osaka. At first glance the rooms may look rather simple, but hidden amongst the minimal design are elements of fun that represent the cheeky humor of Osaka. For example, you can create your own dance floor with the remote-controlled, colored LED lights (I enjoyed mine with a glass of wine and Mary J. Blige). Open the closet and you are greeted by a surprise “Pixorama” of Osaka designed by the pixel art group eBoy, and the amenities are labeled with names such as “SO VAIN”, “BARE ALL”, and “SCRUB-A-W-DUB” .
Before my solo dance party, I was working hard at my room’s counter desk, which looked out over the Midosuji shopping street. Having the city view and the hotel’s coffee made my stressful research much more manageable! After that, I worked out hard in a different way at the hotel gym. The stylish gym space is equipped with all the latest equipment, and my burpees became a little more bearable when I learned I could replenish my energy with complimentary fresh fruit. Digital marking specialist Amy told me that her favorite area of the hotel was the outside space right by the WET Swimming Pool. I imagined myself relaxing poolside, reading one of my many unfinished books (and maybe even swimming!), but I will leave that joy for next time.
The W Osaka is doing a fabulous job of living up to its goal of “defying expectations and breaking the norms of traditional luxury.” During my stay, I felt stimulated by the diverse and vibrant spaces while also feeling relaxed and pampered by the luxury comforts and service of a high-end hotel. What surprised me the most was how comfortable I felt in a space that was the extreme opposite of my existence in every way possible. This, again, is the special W Osaka touch of managing to be an inclusive hotel regardless of your background. An international hotel breaking into the local scene is not an easy feat, but this hotel is “doin’ it and doin’ it well” by using design to introduce visitors to the vibrant culture of Osaka while also incorporating global concepts and ideas.
Words: Sara Aiko
Photos: Sara Aiko