My husband and I visited Atami after a short break in Daiba, Tokyo. Atami, famous for its onsen (hot springs), used to be one of the most popular tourist destination in late 19th-century Japan, probably not unlike Brighton in England in the similar period. For this reason, this tourist town figures large in early modern Japanese literary works. The most famous literary work in which Atami has a significant place is Konjiki-Yasha (often translated as Golden Demon in English) by Ozaki Koyo. Since this work exemplifies the moral ethos of the early Meiji period its depiction of gender relations is out of synch to our contemporary sensibility. Nevertheless, the most obnoxious, politically incorrect scene in the novel where Kanichi, the main male character, kicks his former fiancé Omiya, the main female character, who believes that she is sacrificing herself for his sake (I venture to say that she is, at least, in a light grasp of self-deception by believing this) is immortalized in the form of a bronze statue, which is now highlighted by a foot light at night. There are at least two ways to interpret this ostensibly exhibited figure: most Japanese (or at least most of Japanese who often visit Atami, possibly old-time politicians, and businessmen, etc.) still hold onto the gender relations exemplified in this stature; or people are blithely unconscious of the meaning of such a statue because all they care is that the scene depicted is still very famous. Today, the statue is exhibited alongside a Gaudiesque structure of beach park and beach board walk. Here the visible sign of globalization and multi-culturalism plays out for a mile or so along the white beach of Atami, an hour south by Bullet-train from Tokyo.
After coming out of Hokkaido, which we expected to be cold, the chilliness of Tokyo was quite surprising. However, we were even more surprise at the windy chilliness of Atami when we arrived at its station. We expected warmth in Atami, which was traditionally famous as a site of cold reprieve for Tokyoites. (As we later learned this cold wave enveloping the entire Japan was in fact one of the major news while we were in Japan.) We took a taxi to Hotel Micuras, where a few rooms are equipped with in-room onsen baths. The taxi took a very narrow, winding street, to deliver us to the hotel, which struck me as a ryokan which aspired to become a modern hotel. It served French dishes at night and spa-like health food buffet for breakfast, such as vegetable which guests cook by themselves in a quick-boiling device. Our room was large and indeed equipped with a tiled bathtub, big enough for two adults to stretch their bodies. I was expecting a flowing onsen of hot water from a rustic spout like the one we experienced in Kurokawa, Kyushu. However, the tub was empty. We came here to soak our bodies in the “medicinal” onsen water, but when we first saw the empty tub we wondered if the warm water coming out of the faucet was natural onsen. Yet, perhaps due to the onsen or perhaps due to the size of the bathtub in which we could stretch our bodies, we could sleep well the first night to wake up refreshed the following morning.