Azumi Setoda


Azumi Setoda inherits the legacy of Horiuchi-tei, a 140 year old estate that
originally belonged to the influential Horiuchi Family. Active in the salt trade
from the early Edo Period in the 17th century, the family expanded to become
the largest salt barons on Ikuchijima island by the Meiji Period. Their estate’s
proximity to the Setoda port, and the island’s location in the middle of the
Seto Inland Sea, made for an optimal location to operate ships that carried salt
- and later coal - across the Kitamaebune route from the Seto Inland Sea up
to Hokkaido.

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With charming ocean views just a stone’s throw away, the estate was also ideal
for entertaining important business partners. From the port, guests could
enjoy the red pines, pin and Chinese cork oak trees on the neighbouring
islands of Omishima, known for its exceptionally old shrines and as a center
of ancient spiritualism.

To symbolize the Horiuchi family’s influence, when they began the process
of building their compound, they decided to find the best craftsmen and
ingredients from around the country. Carpenters from the cosmopolitan
Kyoto, who were at the forefront of style and quality, created a masterpiece
of craftsmanship to every last detail, such as astonishingly thin shoji screens.
The biggest testament of quality however, is its durability—the fact that
the estate was in good condition to be restored, rather than rebuilt, 140 years
after construction.

瀬戸田史民族編 第4章 暮らしの装い

With the next century of the estate’s life in mind, Azumi entrusted
Kyoto-based architect Shiro Miura with the renovation. An expert in private
residences and trained in the sukiya style of Japanese architecture, Shiro
balances the elements of a homey atmosphere with aesthetics rooted in tea
ceremony, which date back to the 16th century. While stylistic predecessors are
concerned with following traditional methods to the highest degree of accuracy,
the sukiya style recognizes gradual change, offering a flexible framework that
integrates historical forms with new techniques and materials.

瀬戸田史民族編 第4章 暮らしの装い

One of the goals of the restoration was to rebalance the relationship between
moisture, wind, and light. Shiro treats his primary materials of wood, stone,
and soil as living materials. This is exemplified by the way they bend, break, and
change color at their own will, and reflect the conditions of the environment.
For this reason, Shiro considers elements far beyond the walls of the estate; he
also considers the nearby ocean and damp climate of the region, as well as the
garden’s role in bringing in and taking out mist, fog and sunshine. He
contemplates how the building breathes.

Another defining element of the restoration is that every guest room has its own
small outdoor area - either a private garden, generous balcony, or combination of
both. Each one is unique and well secluded, thanks to a bold, unconventional
take on the traditional kakine fence. The kakine draws a seamless gradient of
private and communal spaces within the property. With each movement of the
sun and turn of seasons, light and wind dance over and through the kakine,
creating a play of light and shade.

Azumi’s renovation efforts extend beyond the walls of Horiuchi-tei. As the
central presence of the town, one of the Horiuchi Family’s legacies was their
contribution to the local economy, and by extension, the culture. For this
reason, Azumi also undertook the development of a public bathhouse, yubune,
which is located across the street. Here, Azumi guests and Setoda locals relax in
lemon baths.