Karuizawa is a serene and upscale resort town in Nagano Prefecture. It’s accessible in just over an hour by bullet train from Tokyo, making it a perfect day trip destination. It has made a name for itself as a summer mountain resort town near the active volcano, Mount Asama, an image that came about for it in the late 1800s. Its main draw during summer is because its relatively high altitude makes it a cool escape from the overbearing heat of Tokyo and its surroundings.
There’s a little bit of something for everyone in Karuizawa. While it is widely known for its upmarket and westernized atmosphere that can be experienced in the old town of Kyu-Karuizawa, there are also exciting nature spots and cultural sights around.
Karuizawa is home to two shotengai (shopping streets) and a massive outlet park by the station. Karuizawa Ginza Shotengai is one of the first spots people visit in the area. Just a 10-minute bus ride from Karuizawa Station, the shopping street has a variety of exciting street food, cafes and delightful souvenir shops featuring crafts and materials from the region.
For an upmarket experience, Harunire Terrace is located closer to Naka-Karuizawa station and is a good place for a romantic dinner. Just a few steps from Harunire Terrace is a famous, upscale onsen (hot spring) called Tonbo no yu which features a spacious sauna room and outdoor and indoor baths.
Karuizawa Wild Bird Sanctuary
One of the most popular places for a nature walk in Karuizawa is the Karuizawa Wild Bird Sanctuary. The reserve has two walking routes, which take an hour or an hour and a half respectively. The Picchio Visitor Center offers a scenic welcome to the route and various wildlife tours such as flying squirrel spotting.
Karuizawa Shiraito Falls
Another natural point of interest is the sightseeing spot of the Karuizawa Shiraito Falls. The curved shape makes the site look manmade, but the waterfall is a natural result of groundwater surfacing from a volcanic stratum. There are plenty of other nature walks and sightseeing spots around the area.
Karuizawa is a beautiful spot to explore no matter the season. Many of these spots have luscious greenery in spring and summer, gorgeous reds in autumn, and are transformed into sparkling white scenes in winter’s heavy snowfall. There are parks, shrines, and historical sites to visit, as well as various skiing opportunities while remaining a classy resort town.