Last weekend, a group of 10 Stonewallers met up for a weekend break in the scenic Atami, Shizuoka. For some it was the first time to come to such an event, and for others, they had particpated in many ‘queer’ events across Japan. Trepidations are understandable when you have planned to share a room and weekend with strangers, but the ‘Stonewall LGBT+ Atami Weekend’ brought like-minded strangers together, and much fun was had.
Participants were mainly from the surrounding area of Tokyo, but people as far as Miyagi and Mie came too. We met at Atami station, exchanged names and started on the first sight of our short tour around the city. Our first stop was Kinomiya Shrine which boasts to have the largest tree in Honshu. Despite a stand taking photos, there we met a kind man who was adamant to help us take our group photo.
Next we went down to the harbor to watch the sun set, and dip our toes into the ocean. As we walked down the hill, zig-zagging through lanes and streets, we were able to see the right out to sea. Arriving at the beach, it was obvious why Atami is a hub for tourists alike; the shore, the sea air, the surfers…
After what felt like a short hike up, and train ride to Atami station, we bought some refreshments and took a shuttle bus to the hotel. After checking-in and discovering a free ‘janken-tournament’ [じゃんけん大会] we revised our evening plans and headed to our rooms. Atami is famous for its onsen and it was first on the list for some of us. By this time the first-time-meeting nerves had melted away, and I personally enjoyed relaxing in the many warm baths the hotel had to offer.
The buffet dinner seemed to accommodate everyone in the group, so pescetarians and vegans were able to eat. A favorite of mine was the seafood rice dish and plates of sliced steak. The food was pretty darn tasty in general. Straight after dinner we all entered the janken tournament. Despite losing the practice match, out of 60+ hotel guests, I won the game! I do feel a little sorry for the four elderly women I beat though… After that moment, many a hotel guest congratulated me throughout the evening.
After janken we headed for an hour of karaoke, played some games and chatted in our rooms, and attempted to have a table tennis tournament. I didn’t see any potential Olympic competitors between us, but some of us could play a mean game of billiards and air hockey! As the evening drew to a close, people started to head to beds to sleep.
The next morning, some of the group headed off early to visit Atami castle, others went back for another dip in the onsen whilst I was locked outside the room on the balcony. Only for a few minutes though! We had breakfast, walked to a viewing spot near the hotel and then headed off back towards Atami station. I came from afar and decided to leave early, but the majority stayed to browse for souvenirs, eat lunch and breathe in the coastal air before they return to their various hometowns. [That may have been stretching the truth a little].
Overall, it went better than expected. As one half of the organisers, and someone quite active with Stonewall, I honestly did enjoy spending time with other like-minded people from various parts of Japan. I’ve been to many Stonewall events, and I still enjoy meeting new people, meeting people I’ve spoken to through the Facebook group and or reuniting with those that I haven’t seen in months and years. I hope to see you at the next one, and for those who came, thanks for coming. Last but not least, a big shout-out to Yuki for being the main organiser and instigator of this fab weekend. When’s the next one?