Atami's must-see is the MOA Art Museum, 26-2 Momoyama-cho (tel. 0557/84-2511; www.moaart.or.jp), housed in a modern building atop a hill with sweeping views of Atami and the bay. It's a 5-minute bus ride from Atami Station on the YuYu Bus; or take a bus from platform 4 to the last stop (fare: ¥160). The museum's entrance is dramatic -- a long escalator ride through a tunnel -- but the museum itself concentrates on traditional Asian art, including woodblock prints by Hokusai, Hiroshige, and their contemporaries; Chinese ceramics; Japanese bronze religious art; and lacquerware. Although some 200 items from the 3,500-piece private collection are changed monthly, keep an eye out for a few things always on display: the Golden Tea Room (a remake of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's tearoom), a noh theater, and a tea-storage jar with a wisteria design by Edo artist Nonomura Ninsei, a National Treasure. Another National Treasure, displayed only in February of each year, is a gold-leaf screen of red and white plum blossoms by Ogata Korin, whose residence next door is also part of the museum. It takes about an hour to tour the museum, open Friday through Wednesday from 9:30am to 4:30pm; admission is ¥1,600 for adults, ¥1,200 for seniors, ¥800 for university and high-school students, free for children.
I also love Kiunkaku, 4-2 Showa-cho (tel. 0557/86-3101; YuYu Bus: Kiunkaku stop), built in 1919 as the private villa of a shipping magnate, converted to a ryokan in 1947, and now open to the public. It's an eclectic mix of Japanese and Western architectural styles, with stained-glass windows, fireplaces, parquet floors, gaily painted European furniture, and tatami rooms, wrapped around a lovely inner garden. It was once a favorite haunt of famous Japanese writers (including Mishima Yukio); who wouldn't feel inspired here? Allow 30 minutes to tour the facilities, open Thursday to Tuesday from 9am to 5pm. Admission is ¥500 for adults, ¥300 for university and high-school students, and free for children.
Finally, if you're here on a Saturday or Sunday, try to catch the 11am dancing performance of the Atami Geisha, at Geigi Kenban (across from City Hall), 17-13 Chuo-cho (tel. 0557/81-3575; YuYu Bus: Shiyakusho-mae). Although reservations are not required for the 30-minute show, I advise making one anyway to assure getting a seat, as these performances are very popular with the older generation. Stick around after the show; most of the geisha come out to greet the audience and you can ask to have your picture taken standing next to a performer. Admission, including tea and a Japanese sweet, is ¥1,300.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.