A Tour of Atami's Soul Food with a Regional Revitalization Business Advisor

  1. #Soulfood
  2. #food
  3. #A-supo
  4. #local
  5. #Atami

Hi, everybody! This tour for NICHER TRAVEL is set in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture. Now, there’s no mentioning Atami without mentioning onsen (hot springs). Atami is one of Japan’s most famous hot spring destinations. In the 1960s, during the Japanese Economic Miracle, the city attracted over 5 million people every year. But after the economic bubble collapsed, customer numbers tanked, and Atami faced a dire predicament, even declaring a financial crisis in 2006.

The Atami Ginza shopping district as seen from the Atami New Fujiya Hotel.
In front of Yuzen-jinja, a Shinto shrine that houses the deity of Atami’s hot springs, is the Oyu Kanketsusen, one of the famed seven hot springs of Atami and previously one of the three greatest geysers in the world.

It was from this point that Atami’s dramatic revival began. In the 2010s, private businesses, volunteers, and the government teamed up in earnest to roll out numerous schemes to revitalize the area and revive tourist demand. Today, the town has regained its old vibrancy on holidays, when the streets bustle with young tourists. Yet Atami’s other charms suffer from a lack of promotion, and many tourists still only travel between the station and the hot springs.

Top/bottom: The A-supo challenge support center was opened in Atami City Office in 2022. The booths display newspaper clippings from when the center was opened.

A-supo’s Ayaka Ibaraki and Suzuka Takahara, who helped us to put together this tour, run the Atami City Office industry support counter while also working at private companies. Ibaraki-san and Takahara-san are business advisors dedicated to revitalizing the region. Working closely with local restaurants and retailers, they provide support for people who run or want to open businesses in the city, and encourage new initiatives.

The theme they created for their tour of the city is “Atami’s soul food.” Together we will explore, through the lens of traditional cuisine, the beloved culinary culture rooted so deeply in Atami’s climate and lifestyle. If you’re interested in town development or local revitalization, or just love delicious food, then this tour is for you! You might have some exciting new insights talking to the hospitable duo. Well, that’s enough introduction—let’s talk to A-supo.


Top/bottom: At Kosawa no yu, one of Atami’s seven famous hot springs, you can enjoy soft onsen tamago eggs steamed in the shell. The eggs are also for sale at the nearby Tenjin Liquor Store.

A-supo’s Curated AtamiAttractions

—First, could you introduce yourselves?

Ibaraki : I’m Ayaka Ibaraki. I was born and bred in Atami City and I love it here. When I introduce myself and say I’m from Atami, people say “How great! Do you have onsen at home?” but sadly I don’t have onsen at home, just ordinary tap water. (Laughs) A lot of people think Atami is all about hot springs, but there’s so much more to enjoy here.

—Could you share some recommendations?

Ibaraki: All right, here are my three favorites! First is the vast, blue ocean I can see from my house! When the weather is good, the sun sparkles on the water, and it’s so relaxing.

Second is the huge number of unique privately-run restaurants! We’ll explore some on the tour. There’s everything from fashionable joints that are meticulous about the decor and tableware, to old-fashioned restaurants with a clientele that’s been loyal for decades. What they all have in common is how they offer delicious food that can’t be had anywhere else. There are so many restaurants I want to show people. 

Third, the people are so warm and friendly! The city has always had many tourists, so locals are very accepting of everyone. Atami is actually a favorite relocation destination. By the way, they say in Atami that if you drink together once then you’re friends already. (Laughs)

It unfortunately rained on our research trip, but the wetness gave the city a most nostalgic feel. 

—Could you go next, Takahara-san?

Takahara: I’m Suzuka Takahara. I love Atami, and I’ve been coming here from Tokyo twice a week for the past year or so. When you walk through the city, you can see steam rising from the hill streets here and there. It puts you in the mood for onsen as soon as you arrive. My favorite part of Atami isn’t the sea but the land. You can see from the shore how the city follows the shape of the mountains. Some people call Atami the “Monaco of the East” because of this. Come night, the city lights twinkle on the sea—it’s so beautiful, it makes me lose track of time. I’m so glad to be able to show you my favorite city!

Kiunkaku has long been known as one of the three great villas of Atami. In 1947, the villa was reborn as a ryokan (inn), and hosted famous writers such as Osamu Dazai and Yuzo Yamamoto. It remains one of Atami’s foremost tourist spots.
Chef Sugimoto, pictured, plans to open his Italian restaurant Ricobanale on “Kiunkaku Street” area before the end of 2023. The area gaining attention as a new tourist hotspot. A-supo is supporting his venture.

Atami’s Unknown Delights

—What was your motivation in putting together this tour?

Ibaraki: Atami is only a 40-minute bullet train ride from Tokyo, and is the number one onsen destination in Japan. On holidays, there are many tourists everywhere. Perhaps you’ve seen Atami’s tourist attractions and delicacies on TV or social media.

In providing business consultation at A-supo, we’ve encountered so many wonderful businesses that haven’t been featured on those platforms. Their products and services are outstanding, but they haven’t been able to publicize themselves and become well-known among locals, let alone tourists.

Through this tour, we hope to promote some of these wonderful businesses so that more people learn about the Atami’s unknown aspects.

—Touring Atami with both of you made me realize how much more there is to Atami than just hot springs. The nostalgic night scene, starting with good old Showa-era cafes and snack bars, is still very much alive. As you walk around town, you can find Western-style restaurants and cafes loved by literary giants like Jun’ichiro Tanizaki and Yukio Mishima. And of course, it’s a very photogenic town.

Takahara: Absolutely! In the tour, I want to show you all a different side of Atami, beyond what you usually imagine, and offer a profound, niche culinary experience that you could never get on an ordinary tour.

Sugimoto Katsuobushi Shoten near Kiunkaku has plied its trade since 1889. At the store, you can try your hand at shaving katsuobushi (dried bonito). And while you’re at it, try the A-PLUS certified instant miso soup balls and specialty furikake rice seasoning!

A Journey to Experience Atami’sFood Culture

—So, our tour theme is “Atami’s soul food.” Could you tell us more about what the tour involves?

Ibaraki: In the seaside town of Atami, where all kinds of fresh seafood are available, the CEO of Atami Fish Market will show you how himono is made. At Sugimoto Katsuobushi Shoten, which has been in business for over 130 years, you will experience shaving katsuobushi (dried bonito) and taste the different types. At Nakajima Wasabizuke Factory, the only wasabi pickling factory in the city and a third-generation, family-run business since 1950, you will take part in a special experience only available to the participants of our tour.

Atami Fish Market has fresh fish from nearby places such as Izusan, Atami, Ajiro, Manazuru, Odawara, and Numazu. Masaru Uda, CEO of Atami Fish Market, is a fisheries industry professional who also runs Uda Suisan, his own seafood company.
Ibaraki-san (left) and Takahara-san (right) with Kazuhiro Nakajima (center), head of Nakajima Wasabizuke Factory, which boasts a 70-year history. 
Yamada Tofu Store has been in business for over a hundred years. Besides its famous silken oboro dofu (tofu curds), it also sells deli dishes. 
Soymilk is poured into a regular customer’s cup in a heartwarming exchange.

Interacting with Locals is aMajor Highlight 

Takahara: Another big theme of this tour is interacting with the local people. We want participants to walk Atami’s streets, savor the atmosphere, talk to the locals, and experience the city as residents, not tourists.

—Interaction is a cherished core concept at Nicher Travel. We hope participants will foster connections with locals, and with each other, too! One of the tour highlights is a dinner party at Atami Fish Market, where we will sit and eat ryoshi nabe (fisherman’s hot pot) together. It will be the kind of atmosphere where as Ibaraki-san said, you drink once together and you’re friends already. (Laughs) The tour will be a day trip, but we hope our participants will stay the night and enjoy Atami’s endless night (laughs) and the onsen, too.

Top/bottom: Participants will receive the Atami Barhopping Coupon map, which grants access to a variety of discounts at participating establishments—including Bar Yasui, where this photo was taken. Book a stay in Atami and head out into the night!

Ibaraki: Yes. Everyone, please absolutely stay the night in Atami! (Laughs) I would be really glad if it becomes a tour where all the participants can enjoy genuine, fun interaction with the people who live here. I hope Atami becomes like a second home, where they can come back again and again. And whether they’ve been to Atami before or are visiting for the first time, I hope this tour will help them to enjoy Atami like never before, so they can brag about it as “their city.” If that happens, I’ll be so happy! I really look forward to meeting everyone who signs up.

Ayaka Ibaraki & Suzuka Takahara (A-supo)
A-supo is the Atami City challenge support center. Cooperating with Atami financial firms, the Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and other supportive organizations, A-supo acts as Atami City Office’s industry support counter and provides assistance to people running or opening businesses in Atami. A-supo collaborates with sole proprietors and small to medium-sized enterprises to set challenges (goals) and provides management support. This support encompasses developing business plans, obtaining funding, creating social media strategies, and even optimizing store traffic flow. A-supo also serves as a hub for industry support organizations in Atami, promoting inter-business matching and cooperation with affiliated support organizations. Since its inception in October 2002, A-supo has been involved in supporting about 100 businesses, mainly in the restaurant and retail sectors.

A Tour of Atami's Soul Food with a Regional Revitalization Business Advisor

Assembly:January 20, 2024 (Sat) 12:00   Disbanding: about 20:30

Apply via the link below to participate

Tour Explanation

January 20 (Sat) 12:00 Assembly at Atami Fish Market

12:30–13:10 Icebreaker at Atami Fish Market

After reception, Ibaraki-san and Takahara-san from A-supo will give an overview of the tour concept and talk about the Atami region and the charms of its food culture. Then the tour participants will introduce themselves to each other.

13:30–15:30 Town & Shop Tourat Sugimoto Katsuobushi Shoten, Nakajima Wasabizuke Factory, Yamada Tofu Store,Ricobanale, and Kosawa no yu

Guided by the pair from A-supo, you will take a stroll through Atami’s streets. Visit the long-established food stores that support the local cuisine, enjoy the tour’s unique food experiences, and shop to your heart’s content while getting to know the shop owners and your fellow participants. Of course you can buy souvenirs, but you can buy ingredients for a delicious dinner, too!

Sugimoto Katsuobushi Shoten 

In business since 1889, Sugimoto Katsuobushi Shoten is one of Atami’s foremost old stores. Here you can try shaving katsuobushi and even enjoy a taste comparison of all the different kinds! 

Takashi Sugimoto, CEO of Sugimoto Katsuobushi Shoten. The wooden box behind him is an antique katsuobushi shaver passed down over the generations. 
The store always has about 10 different kinds of kezuribushi (shaved katsuobushi) for sale. 

Nakajima Wasabizuke Factory

Boasting a 70-year history, the renowned Nakajima Wasabizuke Factory is a source of pride for the region. Its products are used not only enrich household tables but also local hotel cuisine and Atami food culture as a whole.

Kazuhiro Nakajima of Nakajima Wasabizuke Factory is also the head of the 2-chome Asahicho neighborhood association.
These round packs of wasabi are a classic product made from carefully selected ingredients in a recipe closely guarded for 70 years. 

Yamada Tofu Store

Everyone in Atami knows about Yamada Tofu Store, which boasts a hundred-year-plus history. Besides their tofu, their handmade deli dishes are also popular. While you’re at it, try their signature fresh soy milk!

Yamada Tofu Store is on an intersection near Kiunkaku. It opens at 6:30! 
Its famous oboro dofu is so popular that it sells out before noon. 


“Bringing abundance to commonplace, trivial meals” is the concept of this Italian restaurant on Kiunkaku Street. Try one of the signature deli dishes as a side dish!

Ricobanale is especially proud of its pasta dishes. This concept dish in the photo is from the chef’s Instagram page. 

Kosawa no yu

Kosawa no yu is one of the famed seven hot springs of Atami. While you’re here, try cooking onsen tamago eggs with the hot steam! Eggs will be provided by the tour staff.

The steam is surprisingly hot! Have a go, but don’t get scalded! 

15:30–17:30 Making Himono at Atami Fish Market

The himono workshop lasts for about two hours. Afterwards, the fish take about one hour to dry, and then they’re ready! 
Uda-san, CEO of Atami Fish Market, was an avid yacht racer in his youth. A true man of the sea! 

The highlight of the tour is the himono workshop, where Masaru Uda, CEO of Atami Fish Market and Uda Suisan, will reveal the secrets of making one of Atami’s signature foods. The himono you make will be used in dinner’s main dish! Even if you’re not confident with a knife, don’t worry: a consummate seafood professional will teach you every step.

18:30–20:30 Dinner Party at Atami Fish Market

Top/bottom: A previous Fish Festival held at Atami Fish Market. 

The dinner party will feature freshly-make himono. We will gather around a first-rate ryoshi nabe prepared by Uda-san himself, and taste the ingredients and side dishes we bought during the day while enjoying lively conversation. Until 19:30, the Fish Market will also hold its famous Saturday Night Market event. We hope you will enjoy this opportunity to discover Atami’s cuisine among the billowing, vibrant big-catch flags.

20:30 Disbanding / Optional Night Tour

A sense of pathos touches the Atami night. Photo taken on Hamacho-dori street.

Now the tour is over! But since we’re here, why not stay the night and head out into the town! If you’re up for a nighttime stroll, we’ll present you with an Atami Barhopping Coupon map, which grants discounts at affiliated bars and restaurants. Of course, the pair from A-supo will be there with you. Why not see the city’s other side? A yet more profound aspect of Atami awaits!