Atami | Where Cherry Blossoms Bloom in January


Last year in the first week of February, I took a 3-day trip to Atami on the Izu peninsula in Shizuoka prefecture. It's a convenient 70mim train ride from Shinagawa station on the Odoriko express train where you can enjoy the beautiful blue ocean view while passing by the many onsen towns of Izu. 


Where to stay: LecTore Atami Momoyama 

This is an affordable onsen hotel with large comfortable western style rooms and rooftop outdoor onsens available. You can use the public bath or the private bath rented by the hour, both have a fantastic view of the ocean. 

They also provide free rental yukata for men, women, and children in various different colors. On a sunny day, you can also head to their rooftop terrace to enjoy a coffee and the ocean breeze. 

It's a short walk from Atami station which has lots of restaurants and a shotengai (shopping street). A night there starts from ¥8,000 JPY. 


Atami-Zakura at Itokawa Walk 糸川遊歩道

The Atami-zakura is the earliest blooming breed of cherry blossoms on Japan mainland. It was bred in the Meiji Period (1868-1972), a cross breed between the Kanhi-zakura (寒緋桜 Prunus campanulata) and Yama-zakura (山桜 Cerasus jamasakura).

When most people say "I'm going to see Cherry Blossoms in Japan" which blooms in early April, it refers to the Somei Yoshino breed (染井吉野 Prunus × yedoensis). Somei Cherry Blossoms are much more white in color compared to the early blooming breeds. You can observe the Atami-zakura has a light pink shade and a much more vibrant cherry red in the middle. The petals of the Atami-zakura also are slightly bell shaped, taking it from one of its origins the Kanhi-zakura. 

So now that we have botany out of the way, where can you see them?

In Atami, the largest concentration of the Atami-Zakura trees can be found at the Itokawa riverwalk. It's a short 12min walk from Atami Station, or you can take a bus/taxi as well. The best viewing spot is from Yanagibashi bridge, which is the second bridge in from the ocean side. 

Atami Plum Garden

Competing for beauty and also in bloom between January to February are the plum blossoms at Atami Plum Garden. This Plum Garden dates back to 1886 and is known for having Japan's earliest blooming Plum blossoms and latest autumn foliage. 

This massive garden has plum trees over 100 years old, a total of 469 trees and more than 60 breeds. Entry is usually free, but it costs a mere ¥300 to enter during the Plum Blossom Festival (Jan 7 ~ Mar 3, 2023)

The day I went was extremely rainy. Rain started to pour as I made my way to the plum garden, but I really wanted to see it so I braved the rain. Turns out, plum flowers in the rain is extremely beautiful. And because of the cloudy conditions, the delicate colors of the plum flowers could be captured more beautifully (instead of being overcontrasted by bright sunlight).

Kinomiya Shrine and its cute cafe 

Kinomiya shrine is just nearby the plum garden. The grand entrance is a large red tori gate lined by a thick bamboo grove. Inside you'll find a very cute cafe serving cold and hot drinks such as Strawberry Latte and Matcha Latte. I really love the fact that the cups and sleeves have Mizuhiki knot, I definitely kept one of the sleeves as a souvenir. 

You'll also find a Goshuin with the onsen icon ♨️ for the nearby Yumae Jinja shrine. Another special item is the "Nagimamori" which is an amulet with ocean wave prints and it's for wishing for peaceful days without waves and storms. 

Atami Pudding Cafe 2nd 

This is an onsen themed cafe and shop with the cutest decor! It definitely fits right into Atami as an onsen town with all the bath buckets and little stools. Their pudding and pudding milk tea though is super delicious! They also sell the cute hippo logo cookies to go if you want to bring some home as souvenir. 

There's also the original Atami Pudding Cafe closer to Atami Station but that one is small and doesn't have cute seating, so make sure you go to the 2nd store which is closer to the river walk. 

Onsen Manju: What is it and where to get them?

These cute and delicious pastries are steamed buns filled with sweet azuki bean paste. You can often find them sold at onsen towns, and they are the perfect snack to go with Onsen milk after a soak in the hot springs. 

One super cute store near Atami station is called "BonBon Berry". They sell everything strawberry themed, and one of their most famous items is a skewer with strawberries and onsen manjus! 

Another place to get onsen manjus is at Atami Station. There are many shops selling them so you can get whichever flavor you like. Look for the shops that have super cute packaging if you are bringing them home as souvenir. 

Beyond Atami: Izu-Inatori, home of the Tsurushi-Kazari hanging Hinadolls 

If you have time, I highly recommend going a few stops further down the coast of Izu to Izu-Inatori to see the Hina doll festival. It's from 1/20~3/31 in 2023 to celebrate Hinamatsuri or girl's day on 3/3. It's at Inatori Cultural Park (稲取文化公園 雛の館) which is walkable from the station.

The many dolls for Hinamatsuri are all hand sewn, each with its own meaning and prayers. For example a peach fruit means longevity of life, bunny with red eyes is to get rid of bad luck, seahorse is to hope the kid does well in life etc. There's so many patterns I took a long time examining them. 

Though March 3rd is girl's day, they also have displays for boy's day or now officially just children's day (May 5th). You will see kabuto (warrior's helmet) for example for boy's decorations. 

Outside of the cultural hall, you'll also find Kawazu-zakura which is a different breed of early blooming cherry blossoms. The pink is bright and it blooms slightly later than Atami-zakura. On the lawn area is also a foot bath, soak in to warm up your feet!

Beyond Atami: Shimoda, where Commodore Perry ended Japan's isolation under the Convention of Kanagawa 

All the way down south to the last station: Shimoda is a beautiful historical town with lots of significance. 

Between 1853-1854, Commodore Perry attempted in two voyages to end Japan's closure of borders (Sakoku 1603-1868, 265 years) which is also known as the Perry Expedition. He brought 27 US naval "Black Ships", nicknamed Kurofune by the Japanese, and after 3 weeks of negotiation, Perry signed the Convention of Kanagawa which opened the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American ships. Other countries would have to wait another 14 years before trade is possible with Japan. 

The significance of ending a 250+ year border closure brought Perry his own statue "Admiral Perry's Arrival Memorial Stone" in Shimoda, and also a museum "Shimoda Kaikoku Museum" with models of these black ships and items found on them. On top of that, a charming riverside road was named "Perry Road" after him. 

If you book in advance, you can also ride on the "Kurofune Train". It's a black ship train which is Commodore Perry-themed and runs between Atami and Shimoda. Thge entire train is black, and the inside spacious with some seats facing the window for you to enjoy the beautiful ocean view. 


With Cherry Blossoms, onsen resorts, the ocean, and lots of great food, Atami and the entire Izu peninsula's east coastal line really is the perfect weekend getaway. I definitely felt relaxed and recharged after 3 days in this wonderful costal region.

Detailed map of all locations mentioned: 


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