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Karuizawa

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Karuizawa is a popular tourist town in Nagano prefecture. It is renowned among Japanese for its beautiful natural scenery, upscale shopping, cool mountain air, hot springs, plus skiing and ice skating in winter.

Understand[edit]

Karuizawa (軽井沢) at about 1000m above sea level is a famous resort town in eastern Nagano Prefecture. Elegant summer houses of the wealthy are scattered through the nearby forests, while the central part of the town is laid out with restaurants, cafes, and boutiques. It is a very popular getaway place for the people of Tokyo to escape the summer heat, and it has easy access by the bullet train, taking just an hour from Tokyo Station. Karuizawa became more famous from the late 19th century as a retreat for Christian missionaries, and there are still several Christian related chapels and items there. Karuizawa offers numerous beautiful natural sights, fresh air, and lots of mountain scenery.

Get in[edit]

By train[edit]

  • Shinkansen (bullet train) from: Tokyo (60-65 minutes, ¥5490; adult, unreserved seat); Nagano (30 minutes, ¥3210; adult, unreserved seat).
  • Shinano Railway from Nagano (75-100 minutes, ¥1670); Togura Station (in Chikuma; 55-70 minutes, ¥1220).

There are 2 main trains stations for Karuizawa - Nakakaruizawa Stn (served by the Shinano train only), and Karuizawa Stn (served by both JR and Shinano, and about 4 km east of Nakakaruizawa Stn).

For those without a JR Rail Pass or other regional pass, the Tokyo Wide Pass (¥10,180) is an economical and convenient 3-day pass that covers the shinkansen and other trains from Tokyo to Karuizawa - and it can be used by foreign residents (not just tourists) as well. It does not cover the Shinano trains, however.

By bus[edit]

There are direct buses from Tokyo, departing from Ikebukuro Stn (about 3 hours, ¥2200).

Get around[edit]

While Karuizawa has some of the best sights you will see in Japan, those taking public buses around will find it challenging as they are rather infrequent, and inconvenient to go to places away from the train stations and central town. It would be very beneficial to learn the bus schedules before heading out, and make sure you don't miss the last bus back to town or you could find yourself stranded. For those going from one outlying sight to another, you will likely need to take the bus back to the central town area first, causing more inconvenience and wasting more time.

For those seeing the outer sights of Karuizawa, a rental car can be the more convenient and efficient way to get around. There are 7 rental agencies around Karuizawa Stn., including Budget, Nissan, Ekiren, Nikoniko, and Nippon Rent-a-Car. Be aware that one road, the Shiraito Highlandway, is a toll road.

There are bicycle rental shops near Karuizawa Stn as well as Old Karuizawa Ginza Street (about ¥1000/day).

See[edit][add listing]

Shiraito Falls sign
Onioshidashien
  • Shiraito Falls (白糸の滝), (25 min by bus from Karuizawa Stn, one way ¥720), 026-742-5538, [1]. One of the highlights of Karuizawa is this beautiful waterfall named after its appearance of several white threads of water slowly pouring down over a wide semi-circle. In wintertime it can freeze over, giving a completely different, glacial appearance. Accessed by a tranquil 5-minute walk from the bus stop. Remembering the return bus times is strongly recommended. Not to be confused with another waterfall of the same name near Mt. Fuji in Shizuoka. Free.  edit
  • Onioshidashi Volcanic Park (鬼押出し園 Onioshidashien), (About 35 min bus ride from Karuizawa Stn, 30 min from Nakakaruizawa Stn, ¥1230), 027-986-4141, [2]. 8-5. Another amazing and rare place to visit is this geopark that was once a sea of lava from the 1783 eruption of Mt. Asama, but now nature is slowly reclaiming it with trees, plants and moss growing among the volcanic rocks. If driving, free parking. If not, checking the bus times would be very prudent. ¥650.  edit
  • Karuizawa Shaw Memorial Church (軽井沢ショー記念礼拝堂), (About 600m up from Old Karuizawa Ginza St.), [3]. 9-5. This is the first church in Karuizawa, founded by the Anglican missionary A.C. Shaw in 1895. Shaw is also considered the founder of the settlement at Karuizawa, which was initially used as a retreat for church workers.  edit
  • Karuizawa Kogen Church (軽井沢高原教会), 026-745-3333, [4]. 10-5. Another historic church with unusual decorations in a forested, scenic setting. Free.  edit
  • Uchimura Kanzo Memorial Stone Church (石の教会 内村鑑三記念堂), Hoshino (20 min walk north of Nakakaruizawa Stn), 026-745-2288, [5]. 10-5. One of the most unusual stone architectures for a church you will ever see. Closed when booked for weddings. Free car parking at the Hotel Breston Court. Free.  edit
  • Usui Pass Viewing Platform & Kumano Kotai Shrine (碓氷峠見晴台 - 熊野皇大神社), [6]. A place with great views that straddles both Nagano and Gunma Prefectures. The shrine is also on the border and has an impressive wooden gate and decor. About a 10-minute taxi ride from Old Karuizawa Ginza St. (approx. ¥2000) or a 35 minute hike up a mountain road. During Apr-Nov there is the Karuizawa Aka Bus that is the most economical and efficient (1X/hr, o/w ¥500, r/t ¥800). Free.  edit
  • Trick Art Museum Karuizawa (トリックアートミュージアム 軽井沢), (3 min walk SW of Old Karuizawa Ginza St.), 026-741-1122, [7]. 10-6, but varies by season. A 3-floor museum especially suited for the kids with various visual tricks and optical illusions. With cafe. ¥1500.  edit
  • Old Karuizawa Ginza Street (軽井沢銀座商店会 (''Kyū-Karuizawa Ginza Shotenkai'')), (Walk 1 km north from Karuizawa Stn.). Hours vary. Stroll up and down the lively old main street which is packed with interesting fancy shops. It is several upscale branches of stores from Tokyo's Ginza that open here in the summer. Many shops cater to the wealthy, but there is a bakery named France Bakery. John Lennon loved the place, and he once bought some bread there.  edit
  • Church Street Karuizawa (チャーチストリート軽井沢), 601 Karuizawa (25 min walk north of Karuizawa Stn), [8]. 10-6. Another shopping street with several art related places plus fashion stores, confectionary shops, gift shops, restaurants, and cafes.  edit
  • Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza (軽井沢・プリンスショッピングプラザ), (Near Karuizawa Stn south exit), 026-742-5211, [9]. 10-7. Upscale outlet mall with lots of familiar European designer brand goods and products.  edit
  • Karuizawa Wild Bird Sanctuary (軽井沢野鳥の森), 2148 Nahakura Hoshino, 026-745-7777, [10]. A 100 hectare park with walking trails and paid tours taking 1-1½ hours and the chance to see several species of wild birds and Asian black bears. Tour reservations required.  edit
  • Karuizawa Lake Garden (軽井沢レイクガーデン), (6.1 km south of Karuizawa Stn), 026-748-1608, [11]. 9-5, 9-4 on Wed exc. rose season and Nov. final week. Located south of the rail tracks and missed by most tourists, Karuizawa Lake Garden is one of the areas most beautiful flower gardens. Open irregularly during flower seasons (check their website), the best time to go is around the 2nd half of June to early July to see the roses in full bloom (though the ticket prices nearly double to ¥1500). ¥800-1500.  edit
  • Kumoba Pond (雲場池 (''Kumobaike'')), [12]. This pond is regarded as one of the most beautiful places in Karuizawa, especially from spring when the new green leaves come out as well as in autumn around mid-October to see the beautiful fall colors. Walking completely around the pond measures about 1050m and takes 20 minutes or so, and gives a number of nice vantage points. Free.  edit
  • Karuizawa Taliesen English Rose Garden (軽井沢タリアセン・イングリッシュローズ・ガーデン), 217 Nagakura, 026-746-6161 (fax: 026-745-3663), [13]. 9-5. Another hidden gem missed by almost everyone, this garden has over 200 different kinds of roses among its 1800 plants, as well as other flowers, pond, water lilies and ducks. The best time is around the late June and early July for the roses. Also has 3 museums for art and collector's items. ¥800-1600.  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

There are several places for hot springs in Karuizawa as well, such as Hoshino Onsen (10AM-11PM, ¥1350-¥1550), the Shiotsubo Onsen Hotel, and Sengataki Onsen.

The area also offers some good hiking such as up to the Usui Mountain Pass and Kumano Kotai Shrine which straddle the border of Nagano and Gunma Prefectures.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Various flavors of jams are a specialty of Karuizawa, and easily found in the souvenir shops and at Old Karuizawa Ginza St.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Karuizawa has numerous small restaurants, pastry shops, cafes, and eateries, mostly close to the train stations. Being more upscale, there are several French restaurants as well.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Karuizawa has its own craft beer at the Karuizawa Brewery, offering a dozen different types of beer. Factory tours are also possible, but reservations are required.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Being a more upscale and posh area for the well to do, there are not as many places for the frugal. But for those staying overnight, there are some choices for every budget.

Budget[edit]

  • Koya Backpackers, 2147-500 Nagakura (2.8km north of Nakakaruizawa Stn), 070-2654-6868, [14]. checkin: 15; checkout: 10. Gives an old traditional feeling as a home built in the early 1900s now converted into a guesthouse. ¥3300~ (bunk bed), ¥8800~ (room).  edit
  • Ryokan Ikoi Sanso (旅館 いこい山荘), 3365-9 Nagakura, 026-745-5254, [15]. checkin: 15; checkout: 10. Japanese inn with traditional rooms, and spring to fall cabins and prepared camping tents. With rental bicycles (¥1000/day), free shuttle bus, wi-fi and free parking. ¥4000~ per person.  edit
  • Bell Cabin Guesthouse (ベルキャビン ゲストハウス), 2348-12 Nagakura (15 min walk NE of Nakakaruizawa Stn), 026-745-1963, [16]. checkin: 15; checkout: 10. Inexpensive guesthouse with shared living facilities. ¥3000~ sgl bunk.  edit
  • Hotel Karuizawa Elegance (ホテル軽井沢エレガンス), (10 min walk from Karuizawa Stn), 026-742-8188, [17]. checkin: 15; checkout: 10. Simple, clean hotel with large rooms and banquet facilities. ¥7500~.  edit

Midrange[edit]

  • Art Hotel Villa 11 (アートホテル ヴィラ11軽井沢), 2147 Sengataki, 026-746-1711, [18]. checkin: 15; checkout: 10. Simple but clean and comfortable 13 room hotel, specializing in allowing dogs. ¥11000~.  edit
  • Dormy Club Karuizawa (ドーミー倶楽部 軽井沢), 482 Naka-ku Sengataki, 026-744-3411, [19]. checkin: 15; checkout: 10. A 24-room hotel with both western and Japanese rooms, plus hot spring (indoor and outdoor baths). Has free shuttle car from Nakakaruzawa Stn. ¥16,500~.  edit
  • Apa Hotel Karuizawa Ekimae (アパホテル 軽井沢駅前 軽井沢荘), 1178-1135 Karuizawa (next to Karuizawa Stn), 026-741-1511, [20]. checkin: 15; checkout: 11. Familiar business hotel chain conveniently located. Free parking. ¥7000~.  edit
  • Live Max Resort Karuizawa Forest (リブマックスリゾート軽井沢フォレスト), 4957-7 Nagakura (4km west of Nakakaruizawa Stn), 026-745-2800, [21]. checkin: 15; checkout: 10. Located further away from the action, this is still one of the most unusual places you can stay at in Japan, looking like a Moorish palace. Plus it has a swimming pool, and yes, it's affordable. ¥9000~.  edit

Splurge[edit]

  • Karuizawa Marriott Hotel, 4339 Nagakura, 026-746-6611. checkin: 15; checkout: 10. A 4-star hotel with both western and Japanese rooms, fitness center, and luxury for those who want it. Dogs allowed. ¥20,000~.  edit
  • Tokyu Harvest Club Kyukaruizawa (ホテルハーヴェスト旧軽井沢), 1178-493, 026-741-3000, [22]. checkin: 15; checkout: 10. Located near the Kyu-Karuizawa area, offering high end accommodations with meals. ¥28,000~.  edit

Get out[edit]

  • Tokyo - Japan's capital and megalopolis with something for virtually everyone.
  • Nagano - Interior city with its amazing Togakushi Shrine, Zenkoji Temple, and kids ninja village.
  • Matsumoto - Famous Nagano city with one of Japan's best and original surviving castles.
  • Kanazawa - Popular for its gold leaf, preserved old samurai districts, and Japan's finest traditional garden, Kenrokuen.
  • Kusatsu - One of Japan's best hot spring areas, and easily within reach from Karuizawa.




Routes through Karuizawa
NaganoUeda
Sakudaira ←
 N noframe S  → Annaka-Haruna → TakasakiTokyo
NaganoUeda-Sugadaira
Saku ←
 N noframe S  → Matsuida-Myogi(annaka) → Tomioka → Fujioka


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