Red Dot Award: Brands & Communication Design 2023

Gin as celebration of
Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa Onsen is a village in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, known for hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics biathlon. Visited by travellers from all over the world for its attractive ski slopes, the enchanting village has much more to offer: hot springs called “onsen” in Japanese, a variety of outdoor adventures such as hiking or mountain biking, as well as local traditions and festivals such as the Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival, held every year on 15 January. United by a shared love for their village, a group of locals and foreign residents alike have set out to bottle the unique charm of Nozawa Onsen and to spread it to the rest of the world.

“We want to share the warmth of the people, the heat of the onsen, the beauty of the mountains, the freshness of the forest, and the exhilaration of a Nozawa Onsen adventure.”

“Taste the Spirit of Nozawa”

The founders converted a historic cannery in the heart of Nozawa Onsen into a distillery that now produces gin and whisky. Like Nozawa Onsen village, the gin of the same name is characterised by its many charms. Using locally sourced botanicals and fresh spring water from Nozawa Onsen, the different flavoured gins offer their own unique experiences, such as “a walk through the forest” or “a celebration of Nozawa's harvest seasons”.

Design that connects

The design agency canaria, which was entrusted with developing the distillery's branding, recognised the importance of creating a brand that everyone - tourists and locals alike - could identify with. At the heart of the brand design is the “Blessing of the Circulation of Water”, which is an expression of gratitude to the “ancient flow” that nourishes not only the people of Nozawa Onsen but also its animals and plants. The movement and sound of water, which is ever-present in the village, plays an important role and is incorporated into the logo which resembles ripples in water and is furthermore referenced in its typography that depicts water droplets in various parts of the characters. The logo is overall characterised by the landscape of Nozawa Onsen.

Brand becomes experience

In addition to its unique Nozawa Gin, which captures the flavour of a Nozawa Onsen adventure, the distillery has its own gift shop and offers distillery tours, spirit tastings and masterclasses. In this way, the brand becomes a true experience, capable of creating a “circle of happiness”, which, according to Yuji Tokuda, canaria's creative director, is the definition of good communication design.

Winner in the Red Dot Award: Best of the Best 2023

What makes the Nozawa Onsen Distillery stand out is its intricately detailed brand design that “tells a story so that it evokes an emotional response in anyone who comes into contact with it, and this makes it memorable,” the jury reasoned in its statement. The place and its people are at the heart of the project and shape the brand. In turn, the brand becomes a celebration of Nozawa Onsen.