12/02/2021

A Recreational Getaway at Karuizawa, Japan

Karuizawa is a Japanese resort town sitting at the foot of a Category A-classed volcano, Mount Asama. Some wealthy families own a second home in this one-of-a-kind borough. Recreational activities are enjoyed here by people who are taking a time off; activities such as skiing, hiking, golfing, and many more!


Table of Contents

  1. Welcome to Karuizawa!
  2. Seasonal Leisures
  3. Places you should definitely visit!
  4. A resort town for everyone

Welcome to Karuizawa!

A bit shy of over an hour distance from Tokyo Station, one can visit the famed Karuizawa, the perfect destination for your holiday getaway. Karuizawa, a town situated among mountains, and verdant forests, is known for its resorts and nature tours from simple strolls to hiking the majestic Mount Asama.

Mount Asama is an active volcano that is known for its powerful eruption during the closing marks of the 18th century that lasted for more or less 120 days. The volcano in recent centuries, however, had been amicable to its neighbors.

※ Japan Meteorological Agency, "Volcanic activity since recorded history of Mt. Asama"

Seasonal Leisures

Karuizawa is known for being a spot where many wealthy people have vacation homes tucked away in the woods and mountains. However, it’s also a place where a lot of people, regardless of status, come to get away from harsh summer heat or to enjoy fun winter activities in a quaint town.

Things do during Summer

Karuizawa is a known summer haven by Tokyo residents because of its accessibility, and accommodating weather even during the hottest days of the season. Visitors have a lot of options depending on their whims and personal preferences.

The range of activities includes shopping, eating local delicacies at restaurants, sports like golf or bowling, visiting various historical locations, and even cycling around. Others may also opt to hike Mount Asama, a trip that spans hours depending on how far such enthusiasts venture.

Things to do during Winter

Compared to summer in Karuizawa, winter is also as attractive, yet offers different packages. The town is snow white instead of lush green, and visitors may try skiing and other winter sports. Karuizawa is covered with illuminations and decorations for the winter festival - there are many Christmas and winter themed events, and the station often puts up a Christmas tree.

Places you should definitely visit!

Shiraito Waterfalls

Shiraito Waterfalls is a man-made waterfall famous for its simple, yet soothing beauty. Shiraito means “white threads”, a name meant to capture the falling streaks of water across the rocks, seemingly like a veil or curtain from a distance.

The vicinity in the top of the waterfalls is surrounded by trees, allowing the lush surroundings into enveloping the area with a comfortable breeze, undisturbed even by the summer heat that made Shiraito Waterfalls a famous tourist destination. During autumn, the waterfall may also offer a different view and appeal. It is advisable to visit the falls during the early hours to appreciate more of its solemn beauty, and of course, avoid the crowds.

Churches

There are quite a number of famous churches visited in Karuizawa, one of them is the Uchimura Kanzo Memorial Stone Church. Built by Kendrick Kellog in 1988, the church is well known for conducting weddings with its charismatic feel. Other famous churches include the Karuizawa Kogen Church, its design and location nestled within nature and trees making it popular for weddings and advertisements. Another is the historical Shaw Memorial Chapel, a structure dedicated to Archdeacon Alexander Shaw, a prominent figure in Karuizawa during his time. And yet another is Karuizawa Union Church, which has been featured in a Japanese drama set in Karuizawa, and often holds instrumental concerts during holidays.

Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza

Built 25 years ago in 1995, the Prince Shopping Plaza of today is one of the main tourist destinations in Karuizawa. The shopping plaza spans a size of around 26 hectares in which there's a free shuttle service for easy navigation between the different sections. Most shops operate from 10:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M., which may be subject to changes depending on the seasons or climate.

The Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza is known for its fashion outlets, in which there are over 200 stores, including internationally famous selections. There are also a range of restaurants, and cafes perfect for taking a rest, or indulging in the local flavors. Among the lineup of things you can buy, there are also locally produced wine, beer, and an array of meat products.

※ Seibu Properties Inc., "Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza"

The plaza is conveniently located near many guest houses and hotels. It is also accessible from the south exit of Karuizawa Station, but before leaving, be sure to visit the various stores offering souvenirs from trinkets to specialty food and of course, the magnets for your refrigerator.

Onioshidashi Park

Onioshidashi Park was formed and shaped by the eruption of Mount Asama in 1783, the aftermath of the spewed contents of the volcano eventually settling into today’s famous rock formation, visited by numerous people, both for its history, and current beauty.

※ Prince Hotels & Resorts, "Mt. Asama and Onioshidashien"

The tragic past of Onioshidashi Park pertains to victims of eruptions of Mount Asuma, in which a shrine was erected in remembrance. The name of the Onioshidashi Park was coined with the belief that the disasters of ages past were caused not by the volcano, Mount Asama, but instead by “onis” or ogres trying to break out the mountain.

The park is home to more than a hundred species of alpine plants, where, together with the moss they streak the rock formations that differ in color with the passing of seasons. From the park, a picturesque painting of nature can be observed from the lush green stretches of trees, and red-golden hues of autumn, in which during clear days the famous slopes of Mount Asama can be seen.

Hoshinoya Karuizawa

Hoshinoya Karuizawa is a sanctuary, within a sanctuary. The resort offers a full package of accommodation, food, and a range of activities for your immersive trip in nature.

Hoshinoya is chain of luxury hotels famous in Japan, and Hoshinoya Karuizawa is a place designed to reconnect people with nature. In Hoshinoya, guests stay in houses following the traditional layouts of a Japanese home, designed to enhance your stay. The accommodation may also be located near the river, or even smuggled into the trees, nature is with you in Hoshinoya.

The cuisines are specially prepared with ingredients from Karuizawa, perfect for tasting the local flavors. There are also tours around the area, in which you can perhaps meet rare species like the flying squirrel, and the array of activities may even include horse riding.

After a long day of traveling around Karuizawa, one may indulge in the resort’s onsen or hot springs for relaxation and meditation. Hoshinoya also offers workshops as light workouts for couples or individuals with the aim of enhancing both spiritual and physical health.

And even if you’re not a guest, you can still use their Tombo no Yu Onsen for a designated price.

Kyu-Karuizawa

Kyu-Karuizawa, at one point in time, was a post town that accommodated merchants for rest during their travels from Kyoto to Edo, and vice versa, and currently it serves as the main town center of the famous holiday retreat destination that is Karuizawa.

Kyu-Karuizawa encompasses the area around Karuizawa station, the Prince Shopping Plaza, and Karuizawa Ginza, along with many other tourist destinations. The area is lined with restaurants, cafes, fashion outlet stores, and souvenir shops.

While it is recommended to stroll around for enjoying Kyu-Karuizawa, another alternative is cycling around town, especially when covering large amounts of area in one day. There are cycling shops near the station and around Kyu-Karuizawa as well for hourly and daily rentals.

A resort town for everyone

Masterfully integrating the beauty of nature into the essence of Karuizawa, the town is a perfect destination for those seeking spiritual retreat and relaxation. Karuizawa is also known for the famous international personalities that spent their vacation in search of inspiration, like John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The past emperor and empress also met on the tennis courts at Karuizawa, a famous story among Japanese locals. The town also hosted both summer and winter Olympic games, from 1964 and 1998 respectively - this alone is proof of its legendary beauty, unchanged by seasons, only offering a different appeal. If a getaway into nature’s embrace is what you need, then you know where to go.

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