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Atami - Invasian's Guide to Japan

Updated: 2 days ago

Now that you are an expert on the ins and outs of Matsumoto City, it's time for us to move from the rugged alps to the sunny coastline. This spotlight for this installment of "Invasian's Guide to Japan" goes to the often overlooked resort town of Atami.

Located 50 minutes away from Tokyo, Atami blossomed in the thriving bubble economy of the 80s. It built huge hotels and infrastructure for Tokyoites seeking a seaside escape. But when the burst of the bubble economy brought Japan to a halt, so did Atami. To this day, the buildings, billboards and beaches seem to be stuck in the Showa period.

Hotel New Acao in Atami; photographer Rinco Koyama does a great job of capturing the the Showa-esque aesthetics of Atami

Atami is a good day trip option for travellers staying in Tokyo, especially during the warmer months.

I have a soft spot for Atami, for a number of personal reasons. One of my favourite parts about Atami is it's landscape and the atmosphere that it brings. It's an unexpected symphony between natural beauty and urban development. Atami always feels like a blend of Akira-esque Cyberpunk (albeit a Showa era cyberpunk feel...our readers in Shenzhen, Hongkong and Chongqing are surely scoffing right now) and a GTA map. Does that make sense, anyone? I guess you'll have to go to understand. 20 floor hotels on mountainous terrains, calming beaches and chaotic bullet trains, golden sunsets and neon signboards; it's a town of complementary contradictions.


Atami Sunbeach

Why come to Atami if you don't go to the beach? This scenic beach is within walking distance shopping streets and restaurants. On a good day, you have a clear view of Hatsushima Island in the distance.

Atami Castle

Do you want to set foot in the actual battleground between King Kong and Godzilla? The Atami Castle appears as a battleground in the final scenes of the 1962 film "King Kong vs Godzilla."

Atami Castle isn't actually a historical castle. It was built in 1959 as a tourist attraction. Regardless, the observation deck has the best views in town of the Atami coastline.

MOA Museum of Art


There are two main shoutengai-style shopping streets in Atami, they are about a 15 minute walk apart. Heiwadouri Shopping street just opposite JR Atami Station, and Atami Ginza Shopping district which is just by Atami Sunbeach. Both areas are have great restaurants, street food stalls and local delicacies on offer.

Heiwadouri Shopping Street

Atami Ginza Shopping District


The quintessential Atami summertime taste like fresh fish and fresh brew. Here are our top picks.

Shirasu Whitebait

Atami and the wider Shizuoka region is famous for its Shirasu Whitebait. Almost every Washoku (Japanese-style) restaurant will serve fresh shirasu from sourced from nearby shores.

Atami Osakana

There are plenty of good seafood restaurants in Atami, but this one tops our list. Atami Osakana is a lively eatery with, what I think is, the best kaisendon (seafood bowl) around. Be sure to try their daily sashimi and cocktail selection too!

Atami Beer

Can't forget about some local brew, can we? The local craft beer is offered in most restaurants and stores. Make sure to ask for "Atami Biiru."

How to get there?

From Tokyo, the easiest and quickest method is the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo Station. This will set you back about 4000 yen, taking around 50 minutes. A cheaper option is the JR Tokaido local main line, about half the price but taking twice as long.

Although if you're not in a rush, I would recommend the slower JR Tokaido local main line. While the Shinkansen largely zooms past in tunnels, the local line takes a slower cruise along the picturesque coastline.

From Nagoya, Osaka, Shizuoka or Hamamatsu, take the same JR Tokaido Shinkansen bound for Tokyo.


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