Few places in the world offer what Azumi Setoda has: a quiet, unassuming yet deeply rejuvenating experience for the soul. Imagine being awakened by sunlight filtering in from the courtyard-facing window, having a quiet home-cooked breakfast in the communal dining room, followed by meditation in the garden room or a session in the bathhouse.
These are just some of the experiences one can expect at Azumi Setoda. Housed in a 140-year-old Japanese compound, it used to belong to the influential Horiuchi family who traded in salt during the Edo Period in the 17th century. Now, the residence has been carefully restored by Kyoto-based architect Shiro Miura – who is trained in the sukiya style of Japanese architecture – and reimagined as a modern ryokan hotel. It currently houses 18 guest suites, four duplexes, and a mixture of private and communal spaces where visitors can choose to mingle or spend their days in seclusion.
The compound itself is located on Ikuchijima, a tiny island on the west of the Setouchi region in the Hiroshima Prefecture. Known as the calmest part of the Japanese Seto Inland Sea, the island’s clear blue waters and fresh air are a haven for the weary soul. One can go fishing, scenic cycling, or on a sunset cruise – experiences that Azumi Setoda offers exclusively for guests.
Even if one chooses to simply stay in the ryokan hotel for a few days, it can be equally restorative. The compound is bordered by a modern, reimagined version of the traditional cedar kakine (Japanese fence), of which each guest suite has a private view.
Inside, the rooms were designed to be in harmony with nature. The furniture is made of exclusively local natural materials such as Japanese cypress, created by wood artisan Doi Mokkou. These pieces were custom-built at specific heights so that guests can enjoy optimal views of the courtyard, whether within the privacy of their suites or in the communal spaces.
Likewise, the bathhouse next door also celebrates local craftsmanship, with tiled artwork designed by Japanese artist Mai Miyake. While artwork found in public bathhouses usually features Mount Fuji, Miyake chose instead to pay tribute to the island and Setouchi’s vibrant marine life in her murals.
Food at Azumi Setoda is equally unassuming but nourishing. Created as “soul food”, the menu is a far cry from the exotic gastronomy one might usually find at urban establishments. Instead, it offers local ingredients according to season – mainly seafood, vegetables and fresh citrus, depending on the catch of the day and the available crops from the surrounding land.
As a nod to the island’s reputation as a sea trade hub due to its calm waters, the culinary team also took care to infuse herbs and spices from different cultures into the traditional Japanese cuisine. These are served on a variety of tableware, including large platters that the Horiuchi family had owned in their antique collection.
It’s the attention to details like these, and the focus on slow living, that makes Azumi Setoda stand out from its flashier peers – and which makes it an appealing haven for those in need of respite.
For more information, please visit www.azumi.co/setoda.