Imagine a seaside village surrounding by blue ocean, high cliffs, a hidden mountain-garden, and a castle atop a mountain. Well, that’s Atami. A magical little area with no foreigners in sight, this quaint town is strictly for those who have the time to visit. But its well worth it!
Atami is a quick 1.5 hour train ride away from the busy centre of Tokyo. Luckily, it included a ride on the shinkansen (bullet train), which is relaxing, quiet and has ALL the leg room (the only place in the entire country I don’t have to worry about my height). After doing my research, I knew to head straight to the ‘Yu-yu’ bus which looped around the most popular spots in Atami. It was only 700 yen (about $8 AUD) for the entire day to hop on and off the bus! The bus was packed, even first thing in the morning! I think everyone was going to the castle though, because no one seemed to be getting off the bus. But I fought my way down the aisle to get off one stop before the castle at ‘Nishiki-gaura’ where the map said there were 80m high cliffs formed by lava thousands of years ago. I don’t know why no one else stopped there! I had the area all to myself and took in the most spectacular view. The cliffs were gorgeous and you also got a magnificent view of the mountain-top castle. After downing a quick sandwich on the viewing platform, I waited for the next Yu-yu bus to take me up to the castle.
Atami castle is actually a fully recreated castle lying on the summit. It includes 8 floors of a variety of exhibitions and kids rooms. The most fascinating was the samurai armour exhibition, and the Japanese castles exhibition. The lower floor was a kids arcade, super weird, and a couple of puzzle-related exhibitions for kids on the middle floors. But the top floor…wow. It led out to a 360 degree balcony view where you could see along the entire coastline of Atami. It was still hot however, so the view wasn’t completely clear but it was still an amazing view and nice to be breathing in the ocean air all day!
Next to the castle, was the Trick Art Museum. You could buy a ticket for both, so I thought, why not? Little did I know that the trick art was all taking photographs with 2D paintings that look SO real! This sounds really cool until you’re travelling by yourself and have no one to take photos of you. But, there are a heap of workers at this place and a lovely little old Japanese man came around with me and showed me what I had to do, then took all the pictures. It was as funny as it sounded. He was with me for over half an hour just taking photos for me on my phone. Fortunately, everyone in Japan are so nice and we had some good chats that were half English and half Japanese!
The next stop on the tour bus intrigued me, the ‘Herb and Rose Garden’. I thought that sounded pretty nice so off I went again. However, when i got there and bought my ticket, they gestured for me to hop on a mini-bus…why? where are we going? Turns out the rose garden winds 1km through the mountains! So they drive you to the top and you wander back down through it. This was one of my favourite parts of the day! It was quite warm so there were not many people and I lost sight of everyone almost immediately! That’s definitely a bonus when you’re trying to take self-timers on your phone while its precariously sitting on a rock and you’re awkwardly running to get to the photo spot in 10 seconds. I thought of my grandmother as I wandered through the beautiful roses and flowers, looking over the mountain range on either side. I had to pinch myself that it was even real!
By the time I got to the bottom, it was already getting late and I had to catch the next Shinkansen back to Tokyo. So, unfortunately I didn’t get to the beach but there’s plenty of time for that later! It was a spectacular day and just goes to show there is no end to the surprises Japan can throw your way.