Last Updated: Jan 21, 2024

Seaside Atami

A Glimpse of Japan’s Legendary Bubble Period

Donny Kimball
13 min readFeb 8, 2019

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A panoramic view from a hill overlooking the sea of Sagami Bay
This story was originally published on donnykimball.com and has been syndicated here on Medium

Welcome back to yet another super in-depth travel guide where I detail all you need to know to get off the beaten path. It certainly has been a while since I’ve published one of these, eh? Ever since I broke my collar bone in 2018 when fate forced me to eat dirt, I’ve been taking it easy on the multi-day trips while I recovered. Thankfully though, I’m finally feeling fit enough to tackle the road again. With that said, today we will be taking a look at the seaside resort of Atami (lit. “Hot Ocean”). Located on the northeastern base of the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture, this hot spring getaway is the perfect add-on to your time in Tokyo. Be it for a mere day trip or an overnight stay, Atami has more than enough charms to deliver in spades.

Before getting into the weeds here, allow me to first start by explaining Atami’s allure. Strange as it may seem, in many senses, what makes this oceanside hamlet worth visiting is the fact that it is well past its heyday as a weekend getaway from Tokyo. You see, during the extravagantly opulent years of Japan’s bubble economy (1986–1991), Atami was highly popular amongst the locals as a destination for business retreats. To cater to this sudden surge in demand, huge developments sprung up in the area, including many large ryokan and apartment blocks along the shoreline. These conspicuous man-made structures give Atami the perception of looking much larger than its current 40,000-strong population would otherwise suggest.

Alas, the miracle of Japan’s Bubble economy did not last. As talk of the country as being number one vanished into the pages of history, so too did Atami’s popularity as a weekend indulgence for corporations. Once the bubble burst in early 1992, Japanese businesses simply couldn’t afford to continue spending recklessly on matters such as luxurious employee getaways. Consequently, Atami too began to experience a significant decline. While the area remains somewhat popular among Tokyoites as an escape from the concrete jungle, Atami is certainly a shadow of its former self. Moreover, other affordable means of travel have also eaten away at Atami’s appeal. After all, why visit this washed-up resort when low cost carriers enable one to travel to…

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Donny Kimball

I'm a travel writer and freelance digital marketer who blogs about the sides of Japan that you can't find in the mainstream media. https://donnykimball.com/