Walls lined with red silk in a side room to the Mozart room (Photo: Atami City)

Atami Hyuga Villa

A stylish and unusual architectural gem

Walls lined with red silk in a side room to the Mozart room (Photo: Atami City)
Peter Sidell   - 3 min read

A few minutes' walk from Atami station, Hyuga Villa is a country house perched on a hill with an enviable view of the ocean. Built in the mid-1930s, it has an unusual underground 'annex' beneath the yard; this was designed by Bruno Taut, a German architect who had fled Germany as the Nazis rose to power.

I was very lucky, in two ways. First, I just rolled up without knowing a reservation was necessary, let alone having one, but they had enough space for me to join the tour that was (luckily!) just starting that moment. Second, one of the other visitors could speak capable English, and explained to me what the guide was saying, even interpreting my questions. Despite the language barrier, all the staff and other guests were very friendly and accommodating, which made my visit the more pleasant.

Having the explanation was good, because there were a lot of interesting details that I'd have missed without it. The annex was used as a dancehall and divided into three separate rooms named Beethoven, Bach and Mozart; the Beethoven room had fifty-six light-bulbs - one for each year of his life - hanging from a wire, arranged to resemble the notes of his 9th symphony written out on the music stave.

It's an elegant, pleasantly relaxing place, with plenty of other interesting features, some architectural, some cultural. The ceiling was made of paulownia wood to provide better acoustics; some walls were covered with red silk, which apparently had once reminded one visiting Austrian tourist of Mozart's Requiem; the tatami mats were lined up so that the black borders didn't create a barrier to the view of the ocean - but the borders were then directed towards the alcove, so it couldn't house a Buddha statue that would have usually lived there. The tour lasted about fifty minutes, and I enjoyed the atmosphere, the view out over the ocean, and the insight into Taut's back story and his melding of Japanese and German influence.

Cost and reservations

The Villa is open only on Saturdays, Sundays and National Holidays, with tours (given only in Japanese) starting at 9:30am, 10:30am, 11:30am, 1:00pm, 2:00pm and 3:00pm. Entrance costs ¥300 per person, and places are limited to 10 at each time, so it's best to reserve in advance: email the names and addresses of the group, a contact phone number, and three possible dates and time slots. You'll be sent a confirmation slip, which you'll need to bring with some ID.

Peter Sidell

Peter Sidell @peter.sidell

I came to Japan from Manchester, England in 2003, and have travelled a lot since then, around Japan and in Asia. When I'm not working, I write satire and perform stand-up comedy in and around Tokyo. Check YouTube for a taste.