Reachable by local train (JR Tokaido Line) or special rapid express (Superview Odoriko) from either Yokohama or Tokyo in an hour or so, the town of Atami at Shizuoka Prefecture is synonymous to the idea of Japanese summer- hot spring or beach, take your pick.
Making the most of my summer, I decided to spend a day at Atami to get a glimpse on why the town was the preferred destination for company sponsored trip back in the 90s or what others might call as the decade of the rise of salary man.
If you Google the location “Atami”, chances are you will find very limited information, compare let say if you search for Hakone. Even some websites has outdated info claiming that English maps/brochures are scarce, on the contrary there are plenty available at the tourist information desk beside JR Atami station, with some staff can communicate fairly in English.
Doing the same thing as the others day trip visitors, I purchased a the 800 Yen Yu-Yu bus that conveniently travel around town, stopping on tourist spots with a guide volunteer on-board, but the only drawback like any public transportation is the waiting time in between destination.
A few minutes walk from the castle is Atami Adult Museum, which ironically showcases two things- sex art works and great ocean view. I am no position to comment on what is inside the museum, I did not attempt to enter and waste my 1,700 Yen for silly stuff.
It may not be the real deal, but Atami Sun Beach is as crowded as any natural beach spot in the country. The desire of the visitors to enjoy summer is so overwhelming, when view from afar the whole beach area resemble a prototype of some vacation resort.
My trip to any place in Japan will not be complete without visiting a temple or shrine. In the case of Atami, I have dedicated the rest of the afternoon visiting Kinomiya Jinja (Shrine of Wood) and its 2000 years old, giant camphor tree.
It is believed that everytime you walk on the pathway around the tree, your life will be extended by an additional year. Skeptic or not, circulating the pathway is the only way to appreciate the tree massive trunks so consider the additional life as a bonus.
To complete a day trip in Atami and to rest the tired feet is the free foot bath close to the station. Omiyage (souvenir) can be bought across the three lane shopping street located adjacent to the station.
Though usually associated with an overnight stay for an Onsen experience/ Geisha performance, the local government of Atami is focusing on reviving a once booming local tourism industry by promoting other places of interest apart from the beach area. If you have limited time on your trip to Japan, I suggest to skip Atami but if you have a spare day or so, the 2,000 years old camphor tree and the sun beach are both worth considering.