Here’s an intriguing hospitality concept, if for no other reason than the person behind it.
Adrian Zecha, the man behind Aman resorts
Adrian Zecha founded Aman hotels in 1988. Zecha wanted a vacation home in Phuket, and that quickly developed into opening a boutique resort there. That’s how Amanpuri opened (the name of Aman’s Phuket property), and from there the brand grew significantly.
Aman is one of my favorite luxury hotel groups in the world, though I do think the brand has lost some of its sparkle since being sold to a Russian businessman in 2014. Aman used to be all about opening resorts in truly special places that other brands wouldn’t dare to build in, while nowadays the company is just cashing in on its name, with properties in the pipeline in Bangkok, Los Cabos, Miami, and New York.
Aman New York rendering
Aman is even launching a new hotel brand, Janu, which is intended to be more “energetic.” That’s just about the opposite of what Aman is usually supposed to be.
Janu Montenegro rendering
Azumi, the new modern ryokan concept
A new hotel group named Azumi is being launched in Japan, and it’s a collaboration between Adrian Zecha and Japanese hospitality group Naru Developments. I’d trust Zecha pretty blindly when it comes to his hospitality concepts, so I’m betting these are going to be amazing.
Azumi aims to deliver a fresh take on the Japanese ryokan experience, combining the hospitality of a traditional stay with elements of the global hotel experience.
Here’s how the inspiration for the brand is described:
“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 reflect the culture and climate of its locale.”
Here’s how Zecha describes his interest in getting involved in this concept:
“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.”
Azumi Setoda opens spring 2021
Azumi Setoda is located on one of the islands in the Seto Inland Sea of the Setouchi Region. It’s said that the island is one of the calmest parts of the channel, and due to its temperate climate, a key part of Japan’s citrus industry.
Here’s how a Naru Developments executive describes the inspiration behind the property:
“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. As hoteliers with global experience but with Japanese roots, we are happy taking on that challenge. That is how Azumi began.”
And below are some pictures of the property, which looks gorgeous.
Azumi Setoda area
Azumi Setoda guest room
Azumi Setoda guest room
Azumi Setoda dining
I’m a huge fan of Adrian Zecha, and I’m thrilled to see he’s involved in a new hotel group. I also love the concept he’s going for here, with a modern take on ryokans.
I stayed at a ryokan once before, and while it was a cool experience, it’s not something I need to repeat in that form. I get it’s an experience, but I found the whole thing to be kind of uncomfortable and rigid — the beds were hard, the seating not particularly comfortable, and there was no flexibility when it came to meal times, etc.
It sounds like Zecha is going for a more approachable ryokan concept, allowing people to experience a ryokan while perhaps still feeling like it’s a bit more luxurious, and like they have more control over the experience. I love that.
What do you make of Zecha’s new Azumi ryokan concept?