Japan has a number of onsen, or hot spring, towns that have had their rise and fall in popularity throughout the years. Atami is one of Japan’s onsen towns that has seen its glory days, and moved past them. I’m not quite sure why this cute, seaside onsen town had its fall from grace. But if you ask me, Atami is on its way back to popularity.
Atami’s streets were bustling with people and new stylish dessert places had long lines of curious young people. The sand on the beach was beautiful, the water was clear, and it’s relatively close to the heart of Japan’s mainland, Tokyo. Actually, by Shinkansen from Tokyo station it was only about 30 minutes!
I recently went and was rather impressed, so let me give you the highlights, and then decide for yourself if its worth a visit or not!
Atami Ryokan and Onsen
As Atami’s claim to fame is for the quality of its hot spring water, let’s start here. Actually, the name Atami literally means “hot ocean”. Historical Atami has been around for over 1,000 years and has had its share of famous visitors who came to experience its healing waters.
However, Atami experienced a large earthquake and tsunami back in the 20s so the modern town came about after that. It became a hugely popular tourist destination and even had its own Geisha to entertain the multitudes of visitors! This golden age came to end around the 1990s when the Japanese bubble burst and people had less money to spend.
I stayed at the Atami Tsuki-no-Sumika. The exterior has a charming dilapidated glamour, framed by the ocean which slopes down beneath the ryokan. The interior has been recently renovated and the interior lounge features nice views of the ocean and beach below.
Atami Tsuki-no-Sumika: A Charming Onsen Ryokan
The Atami Tsuki-no-Sumika has an indoor and outdoor onsen, as well as a sauna. The facilities looked really nice and clean and the water was a good temperature. I find some onsen to be unbearably hot but the hot springs here were easy to relax in for some time.
There is also a private bath that you can reserve at the front desk, which is great for families and couples. Additionally, if you are shy and don’t want to use a public bath this is a good choice.
Dinner was included with our stay and served in a private dining room.
Atami Pudding: Cute and Delicious
Just follow the crowds of people and you will find Atami Pudding. Their pudding is known for coming in cute glass bottles stamped with a red hippo. The line was insanity. There was literally a space rented across from the shop so that people could stand on line without crowding the street!
To be fair, it was pretty good pudding and they had some interesting flavors to choose from. Since I was with a group we opted for the variety box and the order of choosing was decided with a short game.
The verdict: (from a grouchy New Yorker who hates lines) 15 minutes isn’t that long to wait for some cute and yummy pudding.
Address: Atami Pudding: 3-14 Takarahonmachi, Atami City, Shizuoka
Atami Sun Beach
I was really impressed by the beach. The water was extremely clear and clean, and the sand was so soft. There’s a convenience store nearby so you can have a picnic (or a few beers). There are toilets near the beach, and also in the store.
Moreover, there’s a public bus that will take you back to the station right across the street. Atami slopes down towards the water rather steeply at times, so while going down is easy enough..walking back might prove a challenge.
They also do illuminations at night, but I didn’t see that because it rained the night we went.
The Verdict: Should I Go to Atami?
If you are visiting from abroad and have limited time for travel in Japan, I would opt to go to nearby Kamakura instead, as there is more to do there in terms of cultural and historical sights. However, if you are interesting in more of a local flavor definitely check out Atami. There is a castle and this Japanese resort town itself is very charming.
If you live around the Tokyo area, definitely!