gm! my name is Oliver and I’m the community designer for the Crypto Cafe & Bar. I arrived in Japan 5 months ago without a plan, any friends, or Japanese skills. But what should’ve been the hardest transition of my life, was made easy because of the community I found here in Tokyo. When I got this job I was quite ecstatic because the best part about living in Japan had been the people: I’ve never met such welcoming strangers who were always willing to help me, teach me about their culture, and go on adventures. My experience so far in Japan is exactly what I want people to find at the Crypto Bar. So while my job description is to plan events and create partnerships, I believe my mission is to create a community and space aligned with DAL’s values as well as my experience in Japan. So what exactly are we here to create? Let’s dive in!
One of DAL’s core beliefs within the web3 space is that blockchain is made for human interaction and community building. This is why we created the Crypto Bar: a physical space where people from any kind of sector, despite their experience in web3 or the language they speak, can come together to learn, talk, and just have fun. And when new contexts are created between people that wouldn’t ordinarily meet and have conversations, that’s when the magic happens.
Do you know the joke about a Democratic Party politician, corporate MUFG businessman, web3 degen, and DAO community builder who walks into a crypto bar? You shouldn’t, because I made it up… but it’s a true story from an event we hosted at the Crypto Bar! Whenever we host events, we always invite people across different sectors. We’re keen on exploring what values emerge from the spaces between individuals and are excited to invite people who would not otherwise be gathering.
From The Beginning
The idea for the Crypto Bar started after the space was vacated in early 2022 on the second floor of our Ebisu office building. The place was left looking like the interior of a cold rocket abandoned in space – every inch lined in shiny tin foil. However, knowing how rare it is to find examples of physical/tangible applications of web3, our founder Joi Ito had the idea and vision to use it to turn some of DAL’s values into a physical manifestation.
To first test this idea, we threw a small pilot in Koenji with a small number of friends, supporters, and web3 enthusiasts and it went well! New relationships formed over great conversations. After that we thought, ok let’s go for it. We immediately trademarked Crypto Cafe, Crypto Bar, and Crypto Cafe & Bar in Japan and got to work building a space for our community.
It took just under a year to completely revamp the place, but that of course didn’t stop us from enjoying the tinfoil (heat insulation sheets from 100 yen store) while it lasted. The first party we hosted was in December 2022 with the gmjp web3 fund called “NFT Tokyo Party.” We also hosted another in April 2023 as a side event for the ETH Tokyo conference.
Empty walls were turned into NFT monitor displays, open space into a cozy place to work, and a walkway into a bar. We completely renovated the space to make people feel at home, able to work during the day and enjoy a few drinks at night (while listening to Joi DJ of course). Here’s what a recent Halloween party setup looked like:
Experiment in progress
While redesigning our dream space, a co-working area and bar, we began reevaluating the structure of our community. As cryptocurrencies and blockchains were gaining popularity in Japan, we hatched an original idea: to create a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) with founding members who would decide not only on the governance of our community but also on enjoyable elements of the space, such as the selection of drinks.
For us, a co-working space and bar isn’t just about buying memberships or purchasing drinks with cryptocurrency. We aimed to go a step further by implementing a structured DAO. This approach is designed to offer a hands-on experience, helping people learn people how a community can be governed through blockchain technology and the implications of owning a stake in a combined digital and physical space. This forward-thinking discussion around DAOs and governance is being led by our Experience Architect, Michelle Huang. In future articles, we will explore more about her thoughts and the experimentation she’s leading in this domain.
As we began setting up the DAO, we realized that it would be a longer, more regulatory process to make it completely legal in Japan. Although this extends our timeline, we are thrilled to be one of the first organizations pioneering the establishment of a legal DAO, ensuring it’s safe and trusted by our members. Consequently, we decided to start utilizing the space and experimenting with it. We’re now accepting MATIC cryptocurrency (in addition to cash), offering 1-month and 3-month memberships (as well as day passes), hosting our own web3 events, forging meaningful partnerships with other organizations, and renting out the space to other communities.
Recently, we’ve been excited to partner with Emi Kusano and Crypto Citizens NFT for their collection launch party, and with FxHash for a 2-day Hackathon Event. These events, catering to different purposes and times of the day, brought together many people from diverse backgrounds to discuss Web3 technologies!
Another aspect we’re passionate about is the story of Putochan, our gender-neutral mascot. Putochan is a unique character whose true nature remains a mystery. It’s adorable yet somewhat mischievous, blending creativity with an innocent appearance while thriving in the dynamic web3 scene. Putochan communicates exclusively in casual Japanese, eschewing formal language.
We are thrilled to see Putochan come to life through our community! Designing the Crypto Bar culture around this character represents a novel and transformative approach for Japanese corporate entities like ours. We look forward to seeing members in the future design their own versions of Putochan, integrate these into web3, and contribute to its evolving backstory. Note: Stay tuned for more insights on Putochan and the vision of our illustrator, Zoe, in a future article!
There’s a lot to explore to build the kind of community we envision, but I believe it starts with finding people and partner organizations that share this same ethos and are willing to lead by example. I’m eager to connect with individuals who are already involved in the web3 scene, as well as those without any prior knowledge or experience. We’re looking for people who are curious about how web3 works and are enthusiastic about gaining hands-on experience and applying concepts in practice.
While the concept of the Crypto Bar has evolved since its inception, our core value of fostering community has remained steadfast. It’s a space created for and sustained by its members, who will always be our primary focus.
If you’re reading this article and are interested in experimenting alongside us, join our Discord and follow us on X for updates and opportunities to participate in our community! We also welcome feedback and ideas for partnerships. We want our community to play a role in shaping the future of the Crypto Bar.
Oliver Greenwald is the community designer at DAL (email@example.com)
Illustration: Asuka Zoe Hayashi & Soryung Seo