There are many places that a person can visit when finding one’s self in the Land of the Sun. Japan has many features that are sought after by various individuals such as nature and technology. Among the many things that Japan is known for are hot springs. There are many hot springs situated all over the country. One of the most famous places in Japan for the best hot spring resorts is Atami.
Map, History, and Geography of Atami
Also known as just Atami-shi in Japanese, the city of Atami is situated in the eastern part of Shizuoka Prefecture. With an area of 61.78 square kilometers, which is equivalent to 23.85 square miles, the city had an estimated population of 37,146 as of the month of December in the year 2016. As a result, the city had a population density of 601 persons per square kilometer, which is equivalent to 1,560 persons per square mile.
With the coordinates of 35°05′45.5″ North and 139°4′17.6″ East, the city of Atami is located in the region of Chubu or Tokai. The mayor of the city is Sakae Saito. The symbols of the city include the Sakura Tree, the Ume Flower, and the Common gull bird. The government can be contacted by the phone number 0557-86-6000 while the address is Chūō-chō, Atami-shi, Shizuoka-ken 413-8550.
Situated in the corner of the eastern part of the Prefecture located at the end of the northern part of Izu Peninsula, the city stands on the steep slopes of a volcanic caldera that is partially submerged. Standing on the edge of Sagami Bay, Atami is a must-visit for people who love onsens. The name “Atami” itself literally translates to “hot ocean.” This coined term refers to the popular hot springs in the area.
One of the city boundaries is the offshore island of Hatsushima. The dominant portion of Atami lies within the borders of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. The area has a moderate maritime climate due to the Kuroshio Current offshore. This means that the area experiences a hot and humid summer season and a short winter season. Municipalities that surround the city of Atami include Kannami, Izunokuni, and Ito in the Shizuoka Prefecture and Yugawara in the Kanagawa Prefecture.
Since the 8th century AD, the city of Atami has been famous as a resort town brimming with hot springs. Notable visitors of these hot springs include Joho Masako and Minamoto Yoritomo during the Kamakura Period. The entirety of Izu Province was tenryo territory under the governance of the Tokugawa shogunate back during the Edo period.
Founded on the 10th of April in the year 1937, the modern city of Atami was a merger of Atami Town and the adjacent Taga Village. Atami was proclaimed as an “International Tourism and Culture City” in the year 1950 by the Japanese government. After such proclamation, the city underwent a fast growth and improvement in terms of its resort hotels. This growth further increased after the construction of the Atami Station in the year 1964 as a stop on the line of the Tokaido Shinkansen high-speed train.
In addition to the famous onsen in Atami is its onsen geisha. There was a decline in popularity of Atami in the 1990s because of the Japanese economic crisis. However, its popularity is again slowly increasing as a bedroom community because of how near the city is to Tokyo as well as Yokohama.
The continuing growth of the economy of the city of Atami relies heavily on tourism. This is because of how famous its hot spring resorts are. Several foreign tourists visit the area every year seeking for the wellness that the hot springs bring to the mind and the body. The secondary industry in the area is commercial fishing due to its proximity to bodies of water with rich aquatic life. Currently, the city also has eight elementary schools, four middle schools, and one high school.
There are many ways to travel to Atami. There are three railways in the area under JR Central. These are the Tokaido Shinkansen stopping at Atami Station, Tokaido Main Line stopping at Atami Station, and Ito Line stopping at Atami, Kinomiya, Izu-Taga, and Ajiro Stations. Highways include the National Route 135, Atami Beach Line, and Izu Skyline.
Top Atami Spots for Hot Spring/Onsen, Ryokan, and Hotels
With the area being so popular with hot spring resorts, it is no wonder that there is now a plethora of onsens to choose from. Probably the most famous onsen in the area is Atami Onsen. With so many hot spring options, several visitors travel to Atami specifically with this onsen in mind. Offering numerous bathing facilities, this onsen has a rich history. Opened during the Nara period, which was from the year 710 to the year 794, the mention of this particular onsen dates to the year 1200.
Aside from the special features of the Atami Onsen, its surrounding areas with onsen resorts are also quite popular. These include Izu Yugawara Onsen, Izusan Onsen, and Minami-Atami Onsen that has a branch in the Taga district as well as in the Ajiro district. Each of these onsens has its own special characteristics that make them distinct from each other.
The onsen resort area bordering the city of Atami is often referred by people are Atami Onsen. However, technically, Atami Onsen actually only includes those onsens located in Atami proper. The area contains the most number of hot springs of any onsen quarter in the country. Several of these resorts are located by the coastline of Atami. This way, guests are able to enjoy a feeling of being in a resort getaway. Atami Sun Beach is also quite nearby and can be accessed on foot.
Just near JR Yugawara Station stand Yugawara Onsen. Within the borders of Yugawara is Izu-Yugawara Onsen, which is considered as the Atami onsen located on the Shizuoka side of the Chitose River. What makes this onsen special is its feature of the mountains. Nonetheless, the hot spring effects of this onsen are similar to that of Atami Onsen.
Recognized as one of the three great onsens in the country, Izusan Onsen sources its waters from Hashiri-Yu, which was founded around 1,300 years back. The onsen is located in the northeast side of Atami, in Izu. Travelling from Atami, going to this onsen will only take a few minutes by car. Similar to Izu-Yugawara Onsen, the hot spring effects of Izusan Onsen is the same as the ones of Atami Onsen.
Last but certainly not the least of onsens is the Minami-Atami Onsen. With two branches, one may opt to go to either the Ajiro onsen or the Izu-Taga onsen. The Ajiro branch is located in the vicinity of Ajiro Station situated on the Izu peninsula. On the other hand, the Izu-Taga branch stands near the Izu-Taga Station. Both onsens provide hot spring effects that soothe the nerves, muscles, and joints.
As for people looking for a ryokan, check out Ryori Ryokan Nagisa-kan. Featuring eight distinct types of baths, visitors will surely enjoy being here. All these baths feature different appearances. This includes an open-air bath for people wishing to gaze out into the sea while relaxing and a cave-style bath that is surrounded by rocks for a more serene feeling. Guests may reserve six of the eight kinds of baths for their own private use.
There are also hotels in the area of Atami. One of these hotels is the Hotel New Akao. This hotel features an open-air bath. What makes this place so popular is that the bath is only five meters away from the sea. Hence, visitors can enjoy the view of the blue ocean while soaking their bodies in hot water. Admission to this hotel is 1,700 yen, which already includes two towels for the face and body and drinks served in the lobby.
A Guide on Other Places to Visit in Atami, Japan
Aside from the hot spring resorts in the area, there are also other places to see when visiting the city of Atami. One of these places is the MOA Museum of Art. Also known as MOA Bijutsukan in Japanese, this museum is situated on the slopes above the city. It contains an impressive collection of not just Japanese art but East Asian art as well. Opened in the year 1982, this museum is owned by the Mokichi Okada Association or MOA. Living from the year 1881 to the year 1955, Mokichi Okada was an avid collection of art. He also founded another museum known as the Hakone Museum of Art located in Gora.
Exhibits showcased in the MOA Museum of Art include three national treasures and several important cultural properties. These properties include paintings, sculptures, works of calligraphy, and other forms of art and crafts. Another feature of the museum is its garden designed in the Japanese style. There are also tea houses and a noh theater in the MOA Museum of Art.
Located in Atami, the museum is highly accessible via commute. Starting from Atami Station, one would only need to take a bus that is bound for MOA Bijutsukan. Alight at the final stop and one is already outside the museum. The trip takes only about 10 minutes and costs 170 yen for a one-way trip. Sadly, the Yuyu Bus does not serve the museum though one can still use the 1-day Yuyu Bus pass on the buses that travel between Atami Station and the museum.
Another place to visit when in Atami is the Atami Castle. Also known as Atamijo in Japanese, the castle was constructed for the purpose of tourism in the year 1959. Located on a mountaintop, the castle overlooks the city of Atami. Made of concrete, the castle contains an exhibition that showcases information about the different castles in the country. Guests are also welcome to dress up in outfits from the Edo period. Moreover, they can also try solving Japanese riddles for fun. In the basement of the building lies a game center as well as erotic ukiyo-e exhibition.
Standing 100 meters above sea level, Atami Castle is a sight to behold even though the city did not really have a castle historically. The top floor of the castle provides guests with panoramic views over not just the city of Atami but also the Sagami Bay. The castle grounds are also famous as a spot for watching the cherry blossoms bloom during the spring season. This is usually around late March to early April. There are also fireworks shown during the summer holidays.
Next to the castle lies a trick art museum perfect for children and for kids at heart. The castle itself is quite accessible as it is a stop on the Yuyu Sightseeing Loop Bus. The trip from Atami Station takes only about 15 minutes and costs 250 yen per ride. However, they also offer a 1-day pass for 700 yen. Coming from the top station of the Atami Ropeway, the castle can be reached by walk. The ride on the Atami Ropeway costs 400 yen for a one-way trip while a round trip costs 600 yen.
Atami, Japan: A Place of Relaxation
The city of Atami is definitely a place for people to relax and unwind. The main onsens in Atami are chloride springs. These are especially good for providing the body warmth as well as fighting off chills. Furthermore, these springs are also good at alleviating nerve, joint, and muscle pain. A number of onsens in Atami, on the other hand, are sulfur springs. These springs are good for skin diseases, hypertension, cuts, and arteriosclerosis.
Indeed the city of Atami is a must-visit. This is not just for people who wish to submerge their bodies in hot springs but also for people who wish to explore. Art enthusiasts would definitely have a great time exploring museums. After which, the best way to end a day of walking is by relaxing in a tub of hot spring.