7 Things You Must Do in Karuizawa

December 20, 2017


Japan is a trending tourist destination for past several years. Japan Tourism Agency even noted the accumulated tourists bound to Japan by October 2018 reached 23.8 million and will soon reach 25 million visitors. Are you one of them? If yes, then which city you prefer to visit the most? I am sure that you all would vote to visit and stay at Tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto only. It is totally fine, I would too recommend visiting those place first before exploring other parts of Japan.

But.. have you ever wondered where Tokyo citizens spend their domestic holiday? This question was raised to me earlier this year and made me curious about any hidden gems in Japan that I may miss. I came to find that there's a small prefecture in Japan that offers breathtaking experience, something that even made John Lennon fond of this place back at the 1970s. Actually, I've heard about this place for quite a while from my Japanese mates, they said this place was popular since it was featured in Doraemon's comic as Suneo's favorite summer resort (lol).

After I went there for the first time, I totally recommend this place for your next holiday destination, especially for wanderlust or those who want to explore a little bit of local experience where Tokyo citizens spend their holiday at, which is Karuizawa. Karuizawa is an upmarket mountain resort town which is nestled at the foot of mountains in the middle of Honshu, in Nagano prefecture. Karuizawa town is located near the active volcano, Mt. Asama. Easily accessed by Shinkansen from Tokyo Station in 90 mins, car driving is another option considering if you want to travel to a few places with your family since the transportation might not cover the whole route. 

Karuizawa draws visitors year round with its skiing, golfing, hiking, good dining, hot spa, natural scenery, and shopping opportunities. Below, I listed out 7 top things to do in Karuizawa that I have experienced myself and surely will get you in awe.

RELAX IN HOSHINO ONSEN - TOMBO NO YU 


Hoshino onsen (hot springs) have fascinated many locals and visitors for its luxurious outdoor baths with spectacular mountain views. Tombo No Yu has both indoor and open-air bath that offers a calming view of the mountain or beautiful stars at night. The onsen is modern, spacious and very clean. I'd say this is a very relaxing place for your muscle, you can even vapor your stress away while sauna and listening to Jazz music. 

STROLL ALONG GINZA-DORI


Karuizawa Ginza-Dori is the main commercial street of this town. What I admire the most when I strolled down this place is the mix of architecture during a walk down the historic street, and pop into the many boutiques and souvenir stores to browse the array of finely crafted garments and trinkets. Here you can walk with a pleasant atmosphere and indulge in some leisure activities such as bowling, golf or cycling around the town. Jam is a local specialty and many shops here offer it in multiple flavors. Remember I said about John Lennon visiting Karuizawa? John used to ride his bicycle to buy baguettes at the French Bakery in the main shopping street at Ginza-Dori. If you go in there, there is a photo on the left-hand wall of John, his bicycle and a basket of baguettes. 

BE AMAZED BY STONE CHURCH


I can't believe that among the most popular attractions in Karuizawa, there are beautiful churches. The Stone Church was built by American architect Kendrick Kellogg to commemorate Uchimura Kanzo, an Evangelical Christian, and founder of the non-church movement. It is a popular wedding spot in Karuizawa because of its unusual architecture and its breathtakingly gorgeous round stone arches interior. When I first walk to this church, the feeling was both ancient and modern. Even when it is packed with tourists, the ambiance can still manage to feel calm. This church is free and open to the public, unless when there's wedding.

VISIT KOGEN CHURCH


A short walk away from Stone Church, you can find this Kogen Church, an older between the two churches. The church is fairly small by Western standards, but the wooden, triangular building blends in perfectly with the forest environment it is in. It is worth stepping inside as well as the large triangular window makes for a striking picture. Many local families have their wedding held in this same church generation after generation.  This church features a wood structure design where warmth and happiness are passed through to each of the audiences. The lovely sound of a harp is specially used in this church to celebrate the wedding day.

EAT SOBA


After visiting beautiful and breathtaking spots, I indulge myself with the best selection of meals in Karuizawa, which is soba! Why soba you asked? Because Karuizawa is located in Nagano prefecture, you have to know that Nagano is synonymous with soba noodles. Its highland climate is perfect for growing buckwheat. It‘s among very few places in Japan that you can slurp soba noodles as a breakfast food in every street corner. So, since here is where I can find the best buckwheat noodle origins, I would say soba is the not-to-be-missed type of food when traveling to Karuizawa. 
 Many of the restaurants serve soba that is fresh and traditionally handmade that mark Nagano soba apart from other regions in Japan, one of them specializes in handmade soba noodles is Kawakami-an. Other options for soba meals are Sasakura and Shinshu Soba Kirisato. 


SHOP AT KARUIZAWA PRINCE SHOPPING PLAZA


Shopping when traveling is every woman's favorite things to do. Prince Shopping Plaza in Karuizawa is one of the most beautiful outlet malls I've ever seen; the stores wrap around an artificial lake, with many of the shops built with the same resort aesthetic as the rest of Karuizawa. This shopping mall enhances your stay with a range of the world's leading brands, such as Gucci or Marc Jacobs. By the time you get back to your train or car your wallet might be empty, but you'll be loaded down with tasty food and inexpensive goodies.

STAY IN HOSHINOYA KARUIZAWA


Last but not the least, the best resort I would highly recommend to stay is Hoshinoya Karuizawa. If you follow my feed on Instagram, you'll know exactly why I adore this place so much. Harmonizing with the natural environment it inhabits, the resort offers personal space and time that convey the highest level of hospitality, all infused with the local culture and natural environment. Hoshinoya Karuizawa is a prestigious and luxury retreat resort with perfect modern Ryokan. The serene atmosphere of the night with clear blue starry skies bring the perfect tranquility sense. Some features that make this place best choice compared to others are the traditional design and its connection to Karuizawa's natural setting. Further, there's also bathtubs crafted out of aromatic cedar sit next to windows that offer private views of the exceptional scenery. Staying at Hoshinoya Karuizawa was the best experience I had and would definitely come back again in the future. Find out more in my other blog post about Top Reasons Why You Have to Stay at Hoshinoya Karuizawa and you'll love it to the bit just like me!

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