Exploring the Coastal City of Atami (Shizuoka, Japan)

After seeing the capybara zoo and the capybara illuminations of Izu, I decided to make my way to the coastal city of Atami and do some exploring around the beach and local area.  I chose to stay at this district during my backpacking trip through Shizuoka because it is centrally located and has a lot of nice seafood restaurants and floral parks you can visit.  My accommodation was at Megumi Guesthouse because it has an onsen and was only 3500 yen per night when I booked it.  Not bad at all!

Here are some of my favorite discoveries that I found during my two-day stay in Atami:

Idematsu Sun Beach

One of the best things about Atami is that the beach is only 5 minutes walking from the station!  When I woke up and went for my morning run, this was the very first place that I visited.  It was very serene and quiet, which is rare for a beach near the city.  Despite it being February, the temperature was extremely mild too.  It almost felt like a private beach to me.  In the summer, Atami holds a fireworks festival that many people attend.  I would like to come back during that time and see how the atmosphere changes!

BonBon Berry House & Maruya Terrace

If you love strawberries… well you’re absolutely going to love BonBon Berry!  This confectionery is full of fruits and desserts of high quality.  I first tried the original strawberry stick with manjuu and a small piece of strawberry cake.  It was so delicious, I came back the following day to try more~  I next ordered the strawberry shu cream that looks like a giant glazed strawberry but is actually a giant creampuff.  I traveled here in February, yet the strawberries were so fresh I felt like it was summer!

For lunch I decided to stop at Maruya Terrace near the central shopping street.  This restaurant will let you choose your favorite fish from the seafood store across the street and grill it for you on a seasoned sandwich.  I chose their famous mackerel sandwhich:

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This is one of the best fish sandwiches I have ever eaten!!

I couldn’t believe this sandwich was only 700 yen!  Seafood in Hokkaido and Kanazawa are much more expensive.  Atami is definitely one of the cheapest places to eat quality fish and I would like to try many kinds in the future!

Atami Ropeway & Kinomiya Shrine

Atami Ropeway definitely gives you access to one of the best views in the city!  For only 600 yen (roundtrip), you can take a cable car to the top of a mountain and see the city and surrounding seaside area.  As expected, the view was breathtaking~  I was happy that I brought my GoPro here.

Next I walked to the nearby Kinomiya Shrine because it’s one of the most famous in Atami.  I loved the green foilage and the leaves that were made into the shape of a heart:

If you’re looking for a hotspring, I recommend going to the nearby Nikkoutei Ooyu.  It is only around 1000 yen to go for the day and has a beautiful view of the surrounding nature.

Atami Plum Garden & Akao Herb and Rose Garden

Though February is usually not the prime season for flowers, I decided to check these gardens out anyway since I was in the area.  I was surprised to find beautiful buds when I first went running through the Atami Plum Garden.  According to the official website, this area has the fastest blooming plums in Japan:

This garden is divided into several areas; they have a Japanese garden, a Korean garden, an art museum, and dozens of plum trees that you can photograph pretty much year round.  I was surprised to find a miniature cave and waterfall here too.  This is much prettier than a lot of gardens that I’ve been to so I’m happy I came.  The entrance fee is only 300 yen.

Finally, I went to Akao Herb and Rose Garden, which actually is a garden up in the mountains!  From the bus stop, a free van will take you to the top (or you can choose to walk to the entrance).  When this garden is in full bloom, it truly looks like heaven.  Unfortunately I could not capture many flowers in bloom, but I got an awesome picture of me in my Orient T-Shirt on the swing.  I did manage to capture the photo below:

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February flowers of Akao Herb and Rose Garden.

What I liked about this garden is that there were hammocks and benches where you could relax and see the seaside.  In addition to the swing, they also had a trampoline!  There were many fragrances you could try for free as well.  This was one of the best views I have ever seen from a flower park, and I regret that I could not take more pictures of the roses.  All the more reason to come back here in the summer!

Entrance here is only 1000 yen.

Final Remarks

 

I love Atami because everything you need is either walking distance or just a short bus ride away: the ocean, mountain, hotsprings, restaurants, and beautiful gardens.  It’s very easy to relax and find inner peace here.  In addition to the capybaras, I loved the nature and food.  I’m so glad I discovered yet another floral beach paradise in Asia and I recommend that everyone else come and experience it for themselves.

Getting to Atami

From Tokyo Station, take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen towards Shin Osaka.  Atami Station is only 37 minutes away, which is closer than getting from one end of Tokyo to the other!  The cost is 4300 yen which is about the same as going to Nikko or Hakone.  It’s definitely worth the cost.

Carpainter – Orient Review: A Soothing Sensation of Techno for the Soul

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Very recently, Carpainter from Trekkie Trax (Tokyo’s beloved independent record label) released a new EP called “Orient” with roots stemming from Detroit Techno and UK Garage/Funk.  The EP contains two songs; the first titled “Orient” and the second titled “Mottled Pattern”.  Collectively they are composed with upbeat, inspiring melodies that are true to their influences, and are very reflective of Carpainter’s ability of an artist.

What I like most about these songs are they can be listened to in any setting–such as a club, a lounge, or even at home in your room.  While listening to this EP, I definitely feel a funky vibe that is overall upbeat and easy to dance too, but simultaneously, the intricate composition makes you feel reflective and contemplative of life.  It is music that is soothing for the soul, much like classic Detroit Techno:

Orient is a song with an intro that sounds similar to the songs that Carpainter produced on his Returning album, but quickly transforms into an extremely unique and funky melody full of energy.  The clashing techno sounds in the middle of the song make it very compelling to listen to, but the drums in the background make the song consistent.  It is evident he carefully chose the timing of the techno chords and electronic components of the song, and much like Detroit techno, this song possesses a lot of spirituality combined with technology.  What I find amazing is that not many people in Japan are familiar with Detroit techno, but this artist has a firm grasp on how to produce it.

In contrast, Mottled Pattern sounds like it had more of an acid techno and liquid house influence, but much like Orient, the percussion and synthetic beats make it a consistent song that is still very funky.  Much like a pattern that is “mottled” or unclear, the song is ambiguous in nature. It sounds like liquid techno at first, then has unexpected spaceship-like SFX in the middle which make it very peculiar.  However, this is Carpainter’s distinctive style, and what makes him stand out as an artist.  Overall, I like this song just as much as I like Orient because Carpainter put so much of himself into it, yet you can tell he had various techno influences as mentioned above.

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Though I have many positive things to say about this EP, my biggest criticism is it doesn’t actually reflect how much as he has grown as an artist.  In less than one year, Carpainter has done amazing things like open for Virtual Self in Tokyo, tour in Taiwan with the rest of Trekkie Trax, and also has performed at extremely reputable clubs in Tokyo while studying music and building a following of loyal fans.  I have witnessed him perform at techno, anime song, and house events as well as open for foreign performers that come to Japan, and in this single year of 2018 he has improved his abilities more than what this EP reflects.

One reason I love Carpainter as an artist is because he has played more genres than anyone else on his label, and has challenged himself to create music that is much different than what your normally hear from other Japanese artists.  However, if you don’t actively follow his club events and only listen to his music online, then you won’t know how much he’s grown as a producer since his last album (Returning, released in 2017).

Fortunately, Trekkie Trax has premiered more of Carpainter’s unreleased exclusive songs on their radio show, so hopefully Orient is part of a larger and more epic release.  Additionally, the reason of why he chose sunflowers as his cover art remains up to the listener to perceive (and will hopefully be elaborated on in a future interview)!

If you like artists like Lone, Ken Ishii, Disclosure, and various UK Garage artists, then I definitely recommend that you listen to it!

Support Carpainter’s Orient EP through Bandcamp here!