After having explored only a fraction of Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures, I decided that it was high time that I explored somewhere new – and thanks to some convincing, I decided that Atami would be the perfect place to start my exploration away from the big city.
Located on the Izu Peninsula in the Shizuoka prefecture, Atami is only about 2 hours from Tokyo by train and is definitely the perfect spot to get away from it all.
Atami – which literally translates as ‘hot sea’ – is famous for its hot springs (or onsen) that are dotted all over the town. Even the town’s mascot, Atsuo, is a little bald fairy wearing an onsen patterned yukata and a Hitler mustache.
During my visit to this cozy little town, I stayed in a Japanese style inn called a Ryokan. Ryokans are amazing traditional accommodations that give you a real sense of the Japanese lifestyle and hospitality – with staff that wait on you hand-and-foot, as well as impeccable amenities – such as a rooftop onsen (hot spring).
When you first arrive the room is set up as a lounge with a tea set laid out and yukata (traditional Japanese robes) waiting for you. But once you leave for an evening meal, your room is transformed into a bedroom with futons replacing the low table. The floors inside the rooms are also tatami mats, so you have to take off your slippers at the door (as you shoes are still in the entrance of the inn).
Being a seaside town, Atami is of course famous for its sushi and many seafood restaurants. In fact, the sushi is so fresh that it even sometimes comes still flopping around on your plate!
But even with seeing this whole fish wriggle, a pair of tiny squids, and this scary boiled fish stare at you, you will have to admit that the seafood is delicious – definitely the freshest fish you’ll ever have.
There are of course plenty of things to do in Atami too… Taking a stroll along the beach is top priority. Along with the many parks and gardens that boast beautiful cherry blossoms during the spring season.
And visiting this famous statue is also a must…
Wait… what?! Yes, this is a real statue. Now it might look violent, but let me give you some back story: The statue depicts a scene from a famous piece of literature, Konjiki Yasha (The Golden Demon), where a jilted gent kicks down his ex-lover for leaving him for a wealthy banker’s son after he shows her a pretty diamond ring. The story was written during the Meiji era (1868-1912) by Ozaki Koyo who was inspired by a pine tree growing near the coast. The story was so famous that it spawned the phrases Diamond ni me ga kurami (you’ve been blinded by a diamond). So even though the statue looks like it highlights the suppression of women, it actually does have it’s place in Japanese history.
And speaking of history and literary figures. Atami also boasts Kiunkaku – an old ryokan that famous Japanese authors would frequent. The inn is now setup as a museum, attracting many tourists every year. You can easily enjoy the Western infused Japanese decor, as well as the idyllic little garden in the heart of the ryokan.
During particularly rainy days, you can also have some indoor fun by going to the Atami castle and trick art museum on the hilltop. The castle offers a great view of the bay, while the trick art museum is thoroughly entertaining – and luckily photography is also encouraged. So you can take as many pictures as you like!
Altogether, my time in Atami was too short, but if you’re a fan of history, like the seaside, and love sushi, then Atami is definitely for you…