If it's your first visit to Karuizawa paricipating some tour may be a good option. Though many service sites are mostly Japanese only, there are many tours in English and some Taiwanese and Chinese. If you are staying at some nice hotel they may have their own tour service too. For the latest information we recommend you to ask at either the Tourist Information Center or go to the Karuizawa Tourist Association. They can assist you in English. The typical tour is strolling around in the woodsty area and learn about the wild life and move around town to visit historical places and architectures.
The main area that many tourist go is along the main street that streches from Karuizawa station. However many great places and activity venues are scattered throughout Karuizawa and it is difficult to know where things are or what is out there. If you are staying in Karuizawa for more than 1 night, we would recommend to have a personal guide to assist you and take you to many places. You will need to move about by car or a bus. It is highly recommended to ask your travel agency for great tour before your visit as during the high season everything is packed and reservation well before your visit is almost mandatory.
To visit Karuizawa, the two typical way is to take the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen or the highway express bus from Tokyo. It's about 70 minutes by Shinkansen where as the bus would take around 3 hours but at almost half the price. I would recommend taking the Shinkansen especially if you are a foreign traveler with Japan Rail Pass or JR Tokyo Wide Pass which fully covers the fare. If you like tarveling leisurely and see the passing scenery taking the bus may suit you better.
When you reach Karuizawa station, you will immediately see the Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza which is just 3 minute walk from the south exit and if skies are clear the volcanic Asama Mt. with some smoke will catch your eyes. It is the starting station for the local train Shinano Railway too. Shinano Railway just released a special 2 day pass for foreign travelers called "BANZAI 2-DAY PASS" which can be purchased at Karuizawa station.
From Kariuzawa station there are many tourism buses and local buses and taxis. If you are staying at a nice hotel most of the shuttle bus will pick you up here. Just make sure which side of the station (south or north exit) your pickup site is at. If you have several hours before your check-in at your hotel, I would find a locker or place to leave your luggage at the station or at the shopping plaza. You you're a shopping lover you can just shop around at the shopping plaza but if you want to enjoy the nice Karuizawa scenery I would head to the north exit and find a bicycle rental shop (there are many near the station) and go cycling to see around town. If you are not familiar with the area stop by the Tourist Information Center at the station and make sure to have some cash (Japanese Yen) before you leave the area. You will need to pay the bicyle rental fee with cash and buy food and drinks strolling around Kyu-Karuizawa area. Bicycles are prohibited to enter the Kyu-Karuizawa main street but you can park your bicycle at the Kyu-Karuizawa Parking (free for bicyles) and enjoy the area.
One of the important thing you should know while traveling around regional Japan is that most places only take cash for payment. If you are from a country where payment with your smartphone or credit card is dominant it's probably very annoying. You may imagine that Japan is one of the most advanced country with technology, that's not the case for payment. One historical and culutral reason is that Japanese never had to deal with money forgery so cash had long reputation of trust.
In recent years, as more and more travelers from around the world come to visit, more places have been investing to install credit card readers and new type of payment system like Apple Pay but don't expect them at local shops, restaurants and cafes. Many clinics only take cash too so you may want to carry some extra. At large facilities such as hotels, restaurants, or shopping malls, they normally take credit cards so you don't need to worry about them.
In Karuizawa, there are many ATMs that take iternational cards to withdraw Japanese Yen from your accounts. If you need to exchange your money to Japanese Yen you can either go to the bank near by or go to a special money exchange machine in town.
Unless you are a very wealthy traveler who is staying at one of the most luxruious hotels and have many indivisual support at your service, here are some useful services in town to accomodate your sudden needs. Looking at many foreign travelers we see them carrying very large suitcases with them. Unfortunately there aren't any places that will let you leave them other than at hotels which are dedicated to their guests only. We have been working hard asking around town to create new service but no one is eager to join. Fairly small baggage can be stored in coin lockers.
If you are traveling for some period of time and want to have your clothes washed, you can utilize some laundromats in town. Another situation where you may have got tired of eating deluxe cuisines at hotels or restarurants, going to a supermarket is a great alternative. You can buy fresh produce and buy all variety of prepared foods and eat at your hotel room. Just make sure you have plates and cutlery in your room. If not, grab some disposable plates and cutlery at the store. There are also many convenience stores such as Seven Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson.
In another situation you may want to use the restroom while strolling around. There are several public restrooms throughout places where tourists tend to go. Most of them have been built recently and are very clean. Please follow the instructions on usage at the venue and keep them clean for others.
Lastly, if you need further assistance you can always visit the Karuizawa Tourist Association or ask the concierge at your hotel.
When you are traveling abroad and you need medical assistance here is what you should do. If you are at your hotel go ask the front desk or concierge for assistance. If you are outside your nearest tourist center can help. However, there may be cases that you just need to go to a drugstore to get what you need or things may be serious and need immediate attention. When you are in Karuizawa there are several clinics and a hospital that will help you incase you need medical assistants. Not many places can attend in English so you may want to have written down information about your basic symptoms or if you are on any prescription and have any medical background on paper so the doctors will understand your situation better. Also it is very helpful if you have traveler’s insurance.
Not need to worry in a daily situation but incase of an emergency regarding natural hazard such as severe weather, huge earthquake, volcanic erruption, or missile fire, you will hear a loud disturbing sound from local people's celluar phones and hear loud sirens and instructions from the town hall over the loud speaker installed throughout the town of Karuizawa called the emergency municipal radio communication system. Unfortunatelly these warnings are only in Japanese. Incase of a necessity of an evacuation there are places near you that is designated by the town government on where to evacuate to. It would be best if you check where and what to expect there during your stay. If you ever encounter this kind of situation, follow what the locals are doing and if you have a chance, find someone that may speak your language for further assistance. Just don't panic. If you need urgent assistance just call 110 (Police), 119 (Fire/Ambulance) anywhere in Japan.