Atami Onsen: a 1,200 year-old hot spring resort by the sea
An hour and a half from Tokyo in the coastal city of Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture is the hot spring town of Atami Onsen. In the legends of the land, during the Nara era (8th century) a holy priest from Hakone moved a spring vein from the sea floor to the Atami mountains as a prayer in supplication for the salvation of fishermen, thus making it possible for everyone to enjoy the benefits of the hot springs.
In the 17th century it became widely known that shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu had brought hot springs to Edo Castle (now Tokyo). In the Meiji era (1868-1912), famous literary figures such as Shiga Naoya, Tsubouchi Shoyo, and Tanizaki Junichiro wrote masterpieces while staying in Atami.
As a mildly alkaline spring, the waters are gentle on the skin, therapeutic for neuralgia and poor circulation, and are said to have a skin tightening effect. Famously, around 90% of these prodigious springs are over 42 degrees in temperature, flowing directly from their source in the center of the city.
Strolling around the town, here and there on the slopes you will see steam billowing upward from the hot spring sources called “Atami Nana Yu” (The Seven Hot Springs of Atami)” which include Oyu Kanketsusen, the city’s protected cultural property, Kawarayu which was once a bathing place for villagers, and Kosawa no Yu / Heizaemon no Yu, where people make boiled eggs. These steaming sources, along with day-use bath houses, add to the enjoyment of the hot spring town atmosphere.
Atami is also home to many “firsts in Japan.” In 1885, the nation’s first hot spring medical treatment center, Kyukikan, was established, Japan’s first “hot spring regulations” were enacted here, and for the first time the emperor’s villa was built as a hot spring resort, which has now become the site of the city hall.
There are many ways to enjoy Atami’s historical atmosphere. At the Atami Baien Plum Garden (established in 1886) marvel at what is known as the earliest plum blossom bloom and the latest autumn foliage every year in Japan, and get a sense of life a century ago at Kiunkaku (built in 1919), designated as one of “The Three Major Villas in Atami.”
The famous Atami Fireworks Festivals held throughout the year
Tokyo Sta. -> 35-45 min by Tokaido Shinkansen -> Atami Sta.
Atami City Tourism Association
*The information herein is as of April 2021.