Monday, October 4, 2010

A Touch of the South Pacific

Each year thousands of Japanese holidaymakers head to island resort locales such as Guam, Saipan and Hawaii. These three locations account for the bulk of Japanese travel overseas. Like anyone else, people just want to get away from it all and soak up some rays on an idyllic sun-drenched beach. Places like Guam and Saipan are only a three hour flight from Japan and are relatively cheap to get to. In these tough economic times however, even cheap package tours to Guam can be out of reach for tired workers in need of a getaway. Luckily Japan has no shortage of seaside resorts towns of its own. One such resort area is only two hours away from central Tokyo by local train.

Situated on the upper half of the Izu peninsula lies the town of Atami. It’s long been a popular spot for residents of the greater Tokyo area and when a shinkansen (bullet-train) station was added there, even more people came. The town is nestled between steep forest-clad hills and a beautiful harbor. Beautiful yellow-sanded beaches are also dotted along the town’s coastline.

During the days of Japan’s bubble-economy period dozens of huge condominium complexes were built along the hillsides overlooking Atami. These days a few condominium buildings have been closed down but most still stand and are available at prices vastly cheaper than those of when they first opened. Some are even available for reasonable nightly rates. Most hillside hotels and condominiums command a spectacular view of the harbor and town.

Just across from Atami lies the island of Hatsushima. A ferry leaves for Hatsushima every hour. It’s a pleasant twenty minute journey. Once on the island you can enjoy the abundant local seafood, visit the resorts, or just take a walk around the island’s circumference. It only takes an hour or so. The more adventurous may want to take a boat out to the larger island known as Oshima which is famous for its hot-springs and wildlife.

The entire Izu peninsula in summer is somewhat sub-tropical in appearance. It really is hard to believe that you are only an hour or two away from Tokyo. With such a location within easy reach, you’d have to wonder why people would want to spend their time and hard-earned money flying to Guam or Saipan.

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