Modern Art and Architecture are not something which Atami is particularly famous for. People tend to come here for hot springs. However, Atami is also home to some stunning examples of modern art and architectures.
A Quick Introduction to Atami
It takes 46 mins from Tokyo Station to Atami Station by shinkansen bullet train. Atami hot spring has been known about for a very long time. In the Edo period, the Tokugawa Shogun’s Family visited Atami for their recreation and the Atami area prospered as a seaside health resort town. Atami is still one of the major destinations for business retreats due to having many large hotels and ryokans. A one-day trip would be fun, but a one-night stay on the way to Kyoto Station would also be nice.
Atami gradually recovered economically after the collapse of the bubble economy in Japan and has been revitalized as an art and architecture town. Here are some of the most beautiful examples of modern art and architecture in Atami:
Odawara Art Foundation Enoura Observatory
When I visited Naoshima Art site in Kagawa Prefecture, I saw “appropriate proportion”, a renovated old shrine as an art piece, by Hiroshi Sugimoto, an artist practicing photography and architecture. The balance between artificial materials and surrounding nature was cleverly merged and fitted smoothly with the emotions of the visitors. I decided to visit another work of Hiroshi Sugimoto and found Odawara Art Foundation Enoura Observatory. He founded the New Material Research Laboratory, an architectural design office in 2008. He established the Odawara Art Foundation in 2009 and constructed Enoura Observatory in 2017.
What to See at Enoura Observatory: The Highlights
There are various kinds of stones which Sugimoto collected. For example, stones of tumulus, temple’s cornerstone and paving stones. The stones were arranged at each section of the Enoura Observatory while keeping the original intention and Sugita’s additional sense of beauty. There was an art gallery, a stone stage and a tea house at Enoura Observatory. Hiroshi Sugimoto used old temple stones and tram’s paving stones as art or pavement of the little plaza. Each structure incorporates traditional Japanese building style and methods to overview Japan’s architectural history.I really loved a rest place in front of Sagami Bay with a fireplace. It should definitely be a relaxing space to make a wood fire outside, surrounded by trees and art objects. Backing onto the Hakone mountains and overlooking Sagami Bay, Enoura district of Odawara is a beautiful natural heritage site. The view of Mount Hakone and Suruga Bay are key elements as Naoshima shrine along with the view of the sea.When I go to camping, I always try to minimize the efforts for cooking, but maximize the efforts to burn wood outside. We spend less than 30 mins for dinner but can stay with the fire for nearly 3 hours. Currently, in Tokyo, it is difficult to find a place to make a fire. There are several barbecue places near the bay area or river side, but it is hard to find the best place to make a huge fire.
The same as Naoshima art site, the tea room using the optical glass material used for “Kutsunugi-ishi”, taking off shoes is stone and wood. The artificial atmosphere and natural combination feature stand out Japanese traditional chic in front of the tea room facing the cliff of the sea.The Enoura Observatory consists of huge stones and trees, so the total color is a little bit sober, but you can find the impactful contrasts of colors. Black and white, blue and pink orange and green, in different seasons and various areas.The greatest highlight for visitors would be the Noh Stage. The stage is built of glass and creates a parallel line of the stage line and horizon. You can enjoy colors of the sky, sea and the stage together. The author might consider the nice breeze and moderate sunshine as a performance. I imagine it might be fun to see the Noh Stage even in a storm. It was nice to walk around freely. I left my baggage, phone and map in the locker and found some hidden paths connecting different areas. I could concentrate on the artworks themselves without any distractions. You can explore what you want. I’d recommend staying two or three hours. This will give you enough time to see all of the highlights and enjoy revisiting the same places more than one time.
Kiunkaku is full of beautiful examples of modern architecture in Japan. If you have interest in Japanese Architecture, Kiunkaku would be one of the reference points in the Atami area. It’s located in the center of Atami and is a 20-min walk from Atami Station. It takes one hour to see the building and the traditional Japanese garden.Kiunkaku was constructed as a second house for Shipping magnate Nobuya Uchida in 1919 and Nezu Kaichiro, a railroad tycoon, added and built European style buildings and gardens from 1929. From 1947, it re-opened as a Ryokan Inn and after World War Ⅱ Atami City has preserved it as a cultural property.Some people were involved to build the buildings from various historical backgrounds and it was run as inn in the end, so the total atmosphere is not united. However, I could recognize how people have made efforts to adopt western culture and integrated it with asian culture in Japan. There are architectural styles of temples and shrines, Chinese style ornaments, art deco styles and Tudor-styles in Kiunkaku.
More to See and Do in Atami
Atami fireworks is one of the most popular attractions happening in summer. It occurs about 7 times throughout the summer season. You can watch it from your guest room, if you book the hotel located in front of Atami Port where the fireworks are set off. I watched the Atami fireworks with my grandmother only once in my life, but I still remembered how big it was and the variations of fireworks.
Atami Sun Beach and Harbor
The beach is not huge and is full of visitors during summer. I always visit Atami Harbor and Atami Sun Beach during winter season when I miss the sea and want to see the waves at the beach. Out of season, the town is so calm and there are less people than in summer.I also like the old buildings and narrow alleys that lead to the beach from Atami Station. I took the narrow path next to Hotel Katsura to go back to Atami Station. It’s a shortcut and the view from the top of the stairs is also charming. On the street to Atami Station, you can buy dried fish and local sweets as souvenirs and take a rest at an old coffee shop.
How to Visit the Enoura Observatory
Location: It takes 15 mins to Nebukawa Station from Atami Station by a local train. Pick up service is available from Nebukawa Station and takes10 mins.
- Closed Days: Tuesday and Wednesday
- Open Hours: 10am-1pm and 1:30pm-4:30pm
*You need to book ahead. A ticket will set you back 3,000 yen and is available through the Odawara Art Foundation website.