New Japanese-influenced hotel brand Azumi unveiled

Adrian Zecha, the founder of Aman, and Japanese hospitality group Naru Developments have announced the launch of their new hotel brand, Azumi.

The new brand aims to deliver a fresh take on the Japanese ryokan, combining the hospitality of a traditional stay with elements of the global hotel experience. The first property is set to open in spring 2021.

A homage to local culture

Originating from as far back as the 8th century, traditional Japanese inns known as ryokan still host guests across Japan. Preserving a more traditional lifestyle, these inns immerse guests in Japanese culture and traditions, with a focus on personalised hospitality that’s made the ryokan synonymous with guest care. Azumi is combining this cultural framework with a hotel offering that appeals to the modern traveller, balancing tradition with innovation in everything from the design and service to wellness, cultural programming and food and beverage offering.

The brand takes its name from the Azumi seafaring people who crossed the ocean to settle in Japan. Azumi hotels will celebrate the layers of culture and history that coexisted across Asia and eventually came together on the Japanese archipelago. As the group develops, each property will emanate the culture and climate of its locale.

Zecha said: “I was first acquainted with ryokans when I was living in Japan back in the 1950s as the Asia correspondent of Time magazine. My favourite ryokan was a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was owned and operated by one family and they were deeply rooted into the local community.

“The hospitality was just right – I was treated as something in between a guest and a dear family friend. This relationship with the family who owned the ryokan made the place an extension of my own home in Tokyo.”

Yuta Oka of Naru Developments added: “When I first met Adrian in Singapore and told him that I was Japanese, he said ‘Well you have a beautiful culture – ryokans’. When Adrian left Aman, it became a dream for me to work with him on updating and rejuvenating ryokans.”

Azumi’s debut property

The first Azumi hotel will launch in spring 2021. This property will be located on one of the islands in the Seto Inland Sea of the Setouchi Region – the island is in one of the calmest parts of the channel and, due to its temperate climate, a key part of Japan’s citrus industry. Historically, the region also holds significance for the constant flow of nourishment, goods and knowledge traversing the inland sea over the last two millennia.

Ahead of the brand’s launch, the team spent four years working with Shiro Miura, a Kyoto architect specialising in Japanese design, who has endeavoured to find harmony between traditional design and modern comfort for Azumi. The architect has brought in artists, artisan makers and gardeners to add layers of expertise to the project.

“Many hotels and restaurants in Japan focus on expressing the thin-sliced surface of the Japanese culture and history, instead of going deep into the roots of each region,” said Fumitomo Hayase of Naru Developments. “As hoteliers with global experience but with Japanese roots, we are happy taking on that challenge. That is how Azumi began.”

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