Old and New
古き良き新しき – I remembered this slogan from a Suntory Whisky commercial in the 1980’s. I’m not sure exactly how to properly translate it, but it means something like “the good old days are new”. If you have a better translation, please let me know. Otherwise, to me I could not help but think of this phrase when I saw the New Akao hotel in Atami. The good old days are back!
I normally don’t go out of my way to do hotel reviews, but in this case I’m making an exception due to the unique experience I had at this hotel. Before I went, I looked at the TripAdvisor reviews that were not always so positive. I think most of the negative reviewers totally missed the uniqueness of this place.
A Bubble Era Landmark
While I could not find any period references, I spoke to some Tokyoites that confirmed that this hotel was indeed a landmark one of the most prestigious resorts in its day. Atami was also one of the most popular Tokyo weekend getaway spot in the bubble era. While there may now be more modern places to stay, I doubt few could capture the essence of the era than the New Akao.
I lived in Japan in the mid-80’s and it really did seem that Japan was going to take over the world and everything was crazy expensive from a foreigner’s perspective. At that time luxury resorts in Atami were so expensive, the nicer resorts seemed almost off limits to foreign tourists, despite the fact that I was an expat with a decent salary.
I am a sucker for retro Japan 70’s and 80’s era luxury. The kind where the experience is uniquely Japanese in the way they can blend traditional Japanese experience with retro Western-influenced kitsch. The New Akao is such a place. Although it has been recently renovated, it still retains so much of the retro feel that it is the best of old and new.
The hotel was literally built on a cliff side, and the main building is supported on a dedicated peer that is right on the water. Inside the hotel, there was an exhibit of the construction which was considered very daring at the time. It is a pity that I did not take a picture of the exhibit, as I assumed that there would be a lot of information on the web. Sadly, when I got back home I could not find any detail information of its construction, other than that it was built by the construction giant Shimizu in 1972.
I took this trip from December 26th to 27th, and was able to snag a good rate as it was right between Christmas and New Year’s when the rates would skyrocket. My primary motivation was to spend some time in the spa to sooth my aching back.
Easy Trip From Tokyo
While you can take the Shinkansen and be in Atami in 45 minutes, the slightly slower way to go is on the Odoriko Super View which takes one hour and 20 minutes from Tokyo Station. It’s almost too short as the view along the ocean side is amazing.
The lobby exceeded my expectations with its retro goodness. Look at those chandeliers and carpet! I could almost hear the Richard Clayderman music in the background. A real bonus is the free coffee and tea you can sip while waiting to check in.
Look at this amazing period-correct mirror tiled wall and clock. I was in love.
Since the hotel is built on a cliff, the top floor (17th) is the lobby on the street floor. Guest rooms were on the 1st to 15th floors. We requested a non-smoking room, but it was on a lower floor (the 5th), but the views were spectacular nonetheless. In this hotel, all rooms are sea view. From our window, we could see the edge of the cliff, and a large rock. In the foreground, we could see Oshima island. Mesmerizing views no matter which room you stay.
Of course, the highlight of staying in an onsen resort is the baths. Here, the New Arako really delivers. As part of their 2017 renovation, they created a new outside spa that is both accessible from the New Arako and their sister hotel, the more premium Royal Wing which is located just above. From the 15th floor, it is a walk along a long corridor to reach the baths. Once you get there, it is quite a sight. While I could not take a picture in the bath, the view is amazing. You have a choice of indoor and outdoor, but in the winter there is nothing like sitting in the warm water outside looking over the ocean.
For dinner, the venue was a very grand dining hall. A set menu of Japanese and Western courses is included in the price. The entertainment has changed over the years, but in our case it was a violin performance by two lovely ladies. While the dinner and entertainment was nothing spectacular, it still made for a pleasant evening.
Sunrise was just after 6:40 and it was a beautiful site to see the sun come up over Osihima island. In one of these hotels, the tradition is to visit the baths at least three times. For us, it was once in the afternoon just after arriving, once after dinner and once in the morning.
In a previous post, I wrote more about Izu and did a walkabout in Atami http://kakuekiclub.com/short-trip-to-izu-penninsula/
While there is a lot to see here, spending time at a resort certainly is a highlight. Since I needed some time in the hot baths to take care of my back, we did get some time for another walkabout, but I will not cover it here. There certainly is enough to see beyond the hotels, and from my observations most people don’t do it enough.
They did not actually play Richard Clayderman in the lobby – that would have been too perfect. Instead, I offer you this for your listening pleasure https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jABZq1WfPxU&ab_channel=NoMadU55555
If you are looking for a truly retro experience, I highly recommend the New Akao.