Spa Business issue 2 2021

Page 13

The Yubune bathhouse is open to the public as well as Azumi guests



Such is Zecha’s reputation, that when he puts his name to something new it garners much interest. His latest brand, Azumi, was unveiled in March and has been created as a modern take on traditional Japanese ryokans – inns with hot springs. “It’s a long love story,” Zecha tells EHL, detailing how he started out as a journalist before becoming a hotelier. “My first introduction to Japan came in 1956. I was sent by Time Out magazine to work in Tokyo… and I fell in love with the ryokan. “A ryokan never has more than 20-30 rooms and it’s always family

Azumi Setoda has a more contemporary feel to appeal to younger travellers


Modern ryokan

run. When things get too much, [the Japanese] go and spend a weekend in their favourite ryokan. It’s for you to get away from everything else and you take many baths because of the hot springs.” Sixty years after his first visit he says there are still 500-600 ryokans across the country, but they’re having a hard time “because the younger generations in Japan don’t have the same lifestyle… but it’s a fantastic experience and I want to preserve it.” Azumi is situated in Setoda, a fishing village on the small island of Ikuchijima, and has been co-founded with Japanese hospitality group Naru Developments. It’s taken three years to sensitively restore the 140-year-old residential compound it’s based in and across the road is the Yubune bathhouse which Naru has also transformed. The main building offers a mix of contemporary architecture by Kyoto-based Shiro Miura, service, food, wellness and cultural programming to appeal to today’s travellers. There are 18 suites and four duplexes but, unlike traditional inns where guests usually stay in their own rooms, it also features open and secluded public spaces for guests to relax in and enjoy.


years old, he’d be forgiven for not wanting to start anything new. But in a recent interview with the renowned hospitality management university Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (see p14) he revealed that’s certainly not the case, before sharing details about new projects and the secret to his success. “I’ve never thought of retirement,” he told interviewer Joshua Gan, EHL’s regional director in the Asia Pacific. “If you’re bored or unhappy, that’s another matter. But if you’re happy doing what you’re doing, then there’s no retirement.”

The ryokan is a fantastic experience and I want to preserve it

Yubune has 14 bathing rooms and in a gesture to the wider community of Setoda, the hot springs will serve as a public bathhouse. Guests will be invited to learn about and experience Japanese bathing culture, lemon and salt bathing and saunas. Zecha says: “We’re using the Azumi brand for this first one issue 2 2021 13