Adrian Zecha's Azumi Setoda Ryokan Opens in Japan

Adrian Zecha's Azumi Setoda Ryokan Opens in Japan

Azumi Setoda has opened on Ikuchijima, a small and tranquil island in the Japanese Seto Inland Sea. Co-founded by Adrian Zecha and Naru Developments, the property balances tradition and modernity to offer the ryokan hospitality experience to the contemporary traveler.

Azumi Setoda is located within a 140-year old Japanese residential compound which has been sensitively restored by Kyoto-based architect Shiro Miura. An expert in private residences and trained in the sukiya style of Japanese architecture, Miura has respected the original purpose of the building whilst reimagining the next century of its life.

The ryokan offers a thoughtful mixture of open and secluded spaces for guests to relax and enjoy. The space is defined by its architect’s bold, unconventional take on the traditional cedar kakine (fence): created to enable a harmonious atmosphere and experience throughout the interiors and garden.

For example, the main dining room features communal tables for guests to interact; by contrast the Azumaya, a quiet multipurpose garden room, offers space for secluded meditation. Offering further privacy, each guest suite or duplex has its own private garden or balcony with a unique view of the kakine, designed by WA-SO landscape architects.

Guest suiteGuest suite © Tomohiro Sakashita

The custom furniture within the ryokan has been co-created with Doi Mokkou, a local artisan specialising in wood. The pieces made for Azumi Setoda use exclusively local natural materials (primarily unfinished Japanese Cypress) designed to blend into the interiors. The furniture was also designed to harmonize with the garden view, including key pieces built at custom heights so as to offer optimal views of the interior courtyard.

The restaurant at Azumi Setoda is designed so that the dining experience is somewhat communal; rather than traditional ‘gastronomy’, the team defines the menu as elevated home-cooking, or soul food. For those who prefer privacy, there are three characterful private dining rooms to choose from. The food offering at Azumi Setoda is an expression of local ingredients and the abundance of the surrounding land, focusing on a feasting menu of seafood and fresh citrus and vegetables. The menu will change seasonally, with the flexibility to adapt daily depending on what the fresh catch or the best crop available is.

Given that Setoda has always been a hub for sea trade and transportation, the menu will also represent an intersection of cultures, featuring herbs and spices that offer a sense of the Asian or Persian influences within the Japanese tradition. Guests will experience a Setoda feast using small delicate palettes to dynamic large platters, some of which are gifted by the Horiuchi family from their antique collection. Food offerings include its specialty ‘Omakase’ course and a la carte.

Azumi Setoda food offeringAzumi Setoda food offering © Max Houtzager

Signature dishes from the menu for launch include:
● Inno-shima Octopus Sashimi, Nishi Shellfish with Sesame Oil
● “Shira-a-e”- Tofu with Coriander and Century Egg
● Steamed Meat Dumpling with Lotus Root and Awaji Onion
● Charcoal-Grilled Loin and Thai-Style Herb Salad

The yubune bathhouse, also designed by Shiro Miura, resides across the street from Azumi Setoda. Guests are welcomed into the building by a repurposed tablet bearing the motto of the original owners, the Horiuchi Family, “New Day, New Wind”.

The tiled artwork has been designed by Japanese artist Mai Miyake. Typically, artwork found in sento (public bathhouses) features Mount Fuji as a motif, however Miyake opted to depict the scenery of the island and Setouchi’s rich ocean life within the intricate wall murals.

In a gesture to the wider community of Setoda, Azumi will operate yubune not only for its ryokan guests, but as a public bathhouse where all are welcomed. Guests will be invited to learn about and experience Japanese bathing culture, lemon and salt bathing, and sauna.

Yubune bathhouseYubune bathhouse entrance and communal bath © Tomohiro Sakashita

Azumi Setoda is located on Ikuchijima island, on the West Side of the Setouchi Region (the Seto Inland Sea) in Hiroshima Prefecture. This area is the calmest part of the Seto Inland Sea, with clear, blue waters and pure, fresh air.

Within Setoda, the ryokan is located on Shiomachi Shotengai, a local market street that spans from Setoda port to Kosanji Temple. It was once considered the entrance of the island, serving up to 10,000 people daily in its heyday; a vitality and atmosphere the team behind Azumi hopes to help restore. Aside from the accommodation and food program, Azumi Setoda also offers a wide selection of activities exclusively for staying guests: zen temple experiences, scenic cycling, fishing, sunset cruising, cooking classes and more.

As a result of direct community feedback, as well as collaboration with the Azumi team, a mixed-use facility called Soil Setoda will open in April to function as ‘the living room of the city.’ Its facilities include short-to-long term accommodation, work lounge, activity centre, coffee roaster and restaurant. Its aim is to create an environment that is both lively and relaxed, conducive to a wide demographic and social and cultural exchange. Just a minute away from the port of Setoda, it also marks the entrance to the Shiomachi Shotengai.

Setoda destinationSetoda Destination © Max Houtzager