Many locations in Japan are known for a singularly outstanding trait, and for many smaller towns and regions that trait is often being home to some of the best hot spring resorts the world has to offer. The culture of visiting a bath house to enjoy the naturally hot waters stemming from deep within nature’s ground has much history associated with it and is to this day one of the defining staples of Japanese society. There aren’t all that many communities globally with an extensive culture of public bathing like Japan, making it one of the most refreshing activities to experience in Japan’s outdoors while visiting.
A town well-known for its representation of importance associated with the bath houses and hot springs is Atami. Atami is a relatively small community with a population between 35,000 and 40,000. Atami is located on the far eastern end of Japan’s Shizuoka prefecture and has quite a bit of natural oddity to it as it is located on the sides of a volcano’s caldera, which is partially submerged in the surrounding sea of the Sagami Bay.
The culture of the hot spring is already made clear by the name of the town – the term “Atami” can quite literally be translated to “hot ocean,” which quite clearly can be considered a reference. Atami’s geographical location gives the town rather short winter periods followed by humid summer months, making an hour of relaxation in the comfort of shade while submerged in refreshing hot water all the more attractive.
Atami’s history with hot springs goes back many generations with the town being considered a prime spot for the enjoyment of inns and baths fuelled by the hot spring water ever since the 8th century, historically noted as being favored vacation spots for some of the most powerful warlords of their times. For many years, Atami has thrived off of national and international tourism, home to many onsen resorts, especially due to its accessibility via high-speed train. This also gives Atami status as a commuter town, allowing its residents to enjoy the peace of a small town but the benefits of being able to work in the large cities of Tokyo and Yokohama, both located within reach of the city.
Visitors staying in either Tokyo or Yokohama should take a day or two out of their trips to take the train down to Atami and enjoy the city’s abundant inns and baths, as no experience in Japan is fulfilled without a trip or two ot a bath filled with the waters of an underground hot spring.
First image by jennajapan.blogspot.com
Second image by suiyotei.com