When people tell their story of how Karuizawa is so special to them, each and every person have their own exceptional stories to tell. There are so many essences about Karuizawa that makes it unique from other resorts in Japan. Various outdoor activities, such as tennis, hiking, cycling, golfing in summer and skiing and ice skating in winter can be enjoyed in Karuizawa, and there are ample shopping opportunities. Karuizawa is located along Japan's Romantic Road, and it offers nice autumn colors typically around mid October to early November each year. Depending on what attracts you and how you like to spend your holidays those factors will differ. In order to try to give you an thorough insight on what Karuizawa is about, we came across an old but great article explaining it. We were thinking about expressing it on our own, the article expresses it in a way exactly how we would like it to be but exceptionally better. So instead we would like to present you partial citation from the site bellow by the professional writer. After reading it, I think you can get a pretty good picture of the landscape of Karuizawa.
While Tokyo is unbearably hot and humid in the heat of the summer, in Karuizawa verdant grass and moss carpet the floors of forests and the mountain air is perfumed with the scent of larch leaves and wild flowers. The area is a little over a one-hour train ride from Tokyo, enabling visitors to quickly escape the hustle and bustle of the big city and enter a world where nature rules.
Sitting on a plateau at the foot of Mount Asama, Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture has long been a popular summer destination in Japan. Last year, over 7.5 million people visited this highland resort with summer visitors topping 4.5 million, according to the town office.
Although Karuizawa attracts a number of weekend tourists, it is best known as a summer retreat where people like to rest and relax for an extended period. The town boasts over 13,000 holiday homes. Karuizawa’s history as a summer retreat dates back to more than 100 years ago when British missionary Alexander Shaw stopped over in 1886. It was then a shabby village, but Shaw fell in love with the cool climate and landscape, which is so often shrouded in mist; it reminded him of his homeland. He found it an ideal summer retreat and built a summer house for his family — the first villa in Japan — and invited fellow missionaries and other foreigners to do the same.
Wealthy Japanese and noble families followed suit, forming a unique community of intelligentsia influenced by Western culture. Villagers were quick to adapt to the new environment. They learned to bake bread and make jelly for Westerners and Japanese who had begun to live like their western counterparts.
In 1894, an old Japanese-style inn called Kameya was converted into a Western-style hotel and renamed Manpei Hotel. The opening of the hotel coincided with the first session of the so-called “Karuizawa Meeting,” a supradenominational missionary meeting where hundreds of missionaries from all over Japan and China gathered every summer.
From the early 1920s through the 1930s, many distinguished Japanese artists, poets and novelists, such as Saisei Murou and Tatsuo Hori, made Karuizawa their summer home. They left behind many works on Karuizawa that helped publicize the area and enhance its reputation.
In the late 1950s, Karuizawa became famous again because of the romance between the Emperor, then Crown Prince, and the Empress, then Michiko Shoda, who met on the tennis court while on holiday there.
Today, the resort is no longer reserved for the privileged. Large-scale development in Karuizawa and neighboring areas has brought commercialization and an increased population.
An increasing number of lodging houses and pensions provide reasonably priced accommodation, while a full range of recreational activities — cycling, horse riding, tennis, golf and a variety of museums — await visitors.
The main street, which runs north from Karuizawa station, is now lined with a number of souvenir shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants. During the peak season, it is crowded with young tourists in scenes reminiscent of downtown Tokyo.
Despite all these changes, however, Karuizawa retains much of its old charm. Local residents and long-term villa owners like to point out that, once away from busy streets, tree-lined lanes — some too narrow for a car and often unpaved — offer a quiet atmosphere reminiscent of past times.
A walk through the woods is the essence of the attraction of Karuizawa — sweet-smelling forests are filled with a multitude of birds, rushing brooks and waterfalls. It’s the perfect summertime antidote to urban bustle.Source: An Article by Hiroko Kimura contributed to The Japan Times
Karuizawa is known for it's beautiful nature. From the fresh greens that sprout in Spring to beautiful colored leaves in fall. It is pleasant just to stroll around with your loved one or your lovely dog. Once you set on foot at Karuizawa station, you can feel that the air is distinctly fresher and cooler. You will smell the greenery lush and is soul-enriching.
Karuizawa have been known for great French Cuisines whose chefs have training background at famous restaurants around the world utilizing local produce. Today you can find all sorts of cuisines such as traditonal Japanese dishes, Thai cusines, Italian cuisines, Indian, Western cuisines, you name it. You can always rush to McDonalds if you get tired of exquisite cuisines.
There are many types of cafes to enjoy coffee and tea along with great sweets. Whether If you want to rest after a long day shopping or want to enjoy the quietness or listening to birds chirping in the woods, there is always a place for you to relax. You can always turn to Starbucks at the shopping mall but since you're in Karuizawa I would recommend you find a local authentic cafe and enjoy the nice cozy environment.
There are many outdoor facilities to enjoy, or go hiking in the forest, camping out, horseback riding, etc., etc., etc. In the winter lakes and ponds freeze and you can enjoy outdoor ice skating. Though it doesn't snow that much within Karuizawa, you can access many famous ski resorts nearby. If you like indoor activities many art craft workshops and cooking lessons are available too. The above picture is Kazakoshi Park (Japanese only) where Curling took place during the 1998 Winter Olympics and is open for the public use.
Karuizawa sports Japan’s largest outlet mall, The Karuizawa Shopping Plaza, with close to 240 shops, offers world's leading brands, luxury brands, fashion goods, accessories, sports items, outdoor gear, and more. A chic shopping alternative is nearby Harunire Terrace, a cozy collection of shops in a woodsy setting. If you like to shop around at local shops, the main street is lined with a number of souvenir shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants you can enjoy to stroll around.
There are many vacation houses and villas around Karuizawa. From historically famous architectures by famous architects to recenly designed fashionable homes mostly owned by famous celebrities and successful business owners. In recent years many foreign rich who became in love with the woodsy setting and the convenience of access from Tokyo are looking to buy their second homes here. Even if you are not currently in the position to own them, it is kind of nice just to see them around.
Karuizawa has long been a popular place for resort weddings in Japan. There are many famous churches and chapels to select from. You can hold your wedding ceremony at all kinds of resort hotels, restaurants, guest houses, and many part venues. Pretty much anything is possible to make you and your partners dream wedding come to life. As with any other places finding the right wedding agency and wedding planner to support produce your wedding would be the main key for a successful wedding.
There are many different town rules throughout Japan that it is very difficult for even Japanese locals to know. For foreigners some things are easy to understand but some may be awkward or is the opposite from what they are accustomed to from their home country. If you violate the regulations and laws you will be either fined and/or will be prosecuted and may even be arrested. Please keep in mind that these regulations and rules and guidelines are to keep the town clean and minding others to keep the environment comfortable for all people and to protect the natural environment. So don’t fight it. If Japanese people gives you an odd look, you're most likely doing something disrespectful. Let’s keep the place piece and sound that you picked and cared to visit for locals to keep their living and for other visitors to enjoy what you’ve enjoyed.
Unlike many cities, Karuizawa is a very quiet town for civilized people with manners. Not for people who cannot mind others and only care about themselves. Even if you are in the woods, keep in mind that there are many wildlife. You ARE the stranger. Tone down your voice especially when in groups.
You many not find any trash can in town. It is recommended you bring along some small plastic bag which you probaly will get when you buy something at any convenience store. For PET bottles and cans, they need to be recycled. If you find any vending machines you will find bins to throw them in. When you are at a large facility you may find some trash cans but if you don't bring them back to your hotel. No spitting your gum or suputum either!
Japanese law classifies bicyle as non motorized vehicle. You are to stop at stop signs and red lights same as automobiles. If people are crossing the street you need to let them through first. You need to ride on the left side of the street same as cars. Sidewalks are for people and not for bicycles except for where there is a bicycle lane. However when you rent a bicycle they may tell you to keep on the sidewalks as possible. It's kind of flexible in reality but make sure you slow down and make way for people on foot and not speed through the crowd.
Japanese law prohibits you from smoking on streets and many public facilities including parks and restaurants. Local rules and regulations also apply. Mostly you are not allowed to smoke while walking. It may be very difficutlt to find places you can smoke but there are smoking spaces in most large facilities. Make sure you only smoke there.
When you visit a shrine or temple, the strict manner is to take off your sunglasses and caps or hats. It is the practice you should follow to show respect for the religious and sacred place. Show respect. Also keep your tone down. Try to feel the pieceful and somewhat sacred environment.
As with every other places on earth, do not feed wild animals. It may be just once to you, to them, if every tourist keep feeding them they will not be afraid of people and eventually become all sorts of problems especially for the local people and the environment itself. Breaking the law of nature will destroy the living nature. Please help preserve the environment.
Karuizawa is surrounded by deep forest where all kinds of wild animals inhabit. Among them are monkeys, bears, and deer. Monkeys and bears can be very dangerous. Make sure you don't go near them. Monkeys are not friendly like what you may have read about the Snow Monkey. It would be safe if you don't walk around after dark or early in the morning near the wooded area. Check out the Monkey & Bear Warning map（Japanese only）
If you are concerned or want to ask about the common practice or local rules you can visit the Karuizawa Tourism Association. Though the site is mainly in Japanese, you can contact in English.