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Bubble-era hotel gets a fresh coat of paint, and a brand new name.


Originally a humble family-run inn that opened in 1954, Hotel New Akao underwent bold expansions during the bubble-economy of the 1980-90s and became one of the grandest destination resorts in Atami. 30 years on, while still drawing a steady yet smaller flow of devotees with an eye for Showa nostalgia, the sheen of grandiosity had started to fade. In 2021, they set out to define a new vision that could withstand the challenging climate of the pandemic-weary hospitality sector, and needed a new identity.

Their new vision entailed a full redevelopment of their vast plot of land – remarkably nestled in lush forests overlooking the sea – to cater to the top-tier luxury guests by providing a panoptic, service-oriented experience, against the backdrop of private villas designed by the renowned architect, Kengo Kuma.

Our first step in building the new identity was to give them a new name, ACAO – an unorthodox spelling of the family name more pertinent to the overseas market, also marking a departure from the conventions of the Japanese hotel business. The brand’s colours mirror the local natural habitat; the rich red of the oceanic rock and deep teal of the hydrothermal sea, while the single curvature of the logo symbol embodies the serenity of the surrounding.

Upon building a comprehensive brand guideline, we progressed to creating an array of collateral as part of the branded ecosystem. This includes a luxurious promotional book, pictograms, wayfinding signs, amenities, stationeries and a website. Throughout the project, our focus stayed on the unparalleled beauty of the natural surroundings – thus, the designs often maximised on the strengths of the landscape photography we art directed, yielding a truly artistic impression of the site, and their ardent imaginations beyond.