Koenji is a neighborhood built on the foundations of oppositional harmony.
Located just a few minutes from the neon-drenched roads of Shinjuku, its streets are dotted with aging izakayas nestled between live houses, bars, and creative upstarts in their embryonic stages of development.
Compared to the hum of inner-city of Tokyo, Koenji’s attitude is contrastingly laidback, but its creative evolution isn’t slow. It makes perfect sense that this area propelled by music and art, and run with a sense of country town familiarity would become the birthplace of BnA (Bed and Art): A bar, hotel, and live-in gallery that’s much more than the sum of its parts.
In this series, we explore the artistic community of Koenji through the perspective of the artists, founders, and collective members responsible for BnA, a self-proclaimed “social x art hotel” project.
"We did not try to make a community" says BnA co-founder Yu “Taz” Tazawa. BnA is not about trying to artificially implanting themselves in Koenji’s scene, it’s about integrating into the DNA of the neighborhood, while welcoming guests along for the ride.
The hotel throws the orthodox business model out the window to achieve its raison d'être. The reception desk doubles as its public bar, like a community conference room for locals and guests, art creators and appreciators to hang out, chat and share ideas, minus any inkling of pretention in true Koenji style.
Deeper into the hotel sits the backroom gallery which doubles as an occasional live space, a temporary home to a rotating roster of unearthed talent.
Designed by local artists Yohei Takahashi and Ryuichi Ogino, the two hotel bedrooms aesthetically couldn’t be more different, but they’re the embodiment of Koenji’s oppositional harmony.
Born in Okinawa, Takahashi’s nature heavy motifs take main stage throughout his work. His fascination with wild animals and their almost liquid movements are manifested along the room’s walls.
In the other space Ogino’s history as a graphic design student is clear in his flirtation with light, and lines, bringing an immersive visual rhythm to the space. If Takahashi is nature, Ogino is electricity.
From the success the Koenji outpost has garnered in the past few years, the international appetite for localized creative culture is rabid.
It’s a hunger the collective is happy to satisfy, spearheading street art projects across the Tokyo and opening BnA Akihabara in 2018. With future evolution on the horizon, the team has shifted their sights national, and they’re currently working on expanding their presence in Kyoto.
BnA is an embodiment of Koenji’s creative innovation. It’s an example of outsiders taking control of typically orthodox industries and uncovering unexplored possibilities into how the world can work.
BnA; born in Koenji, but internationally influential.
Director & Editor - Keivan Salehpour
Producers - Sabrina Suljevic & Chace Fedor
Music - tomar
Production assistance - SET Japan
Photography - Keivan Salehpour & JK Pilgrim