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Take a day trip from Tokyo to this mountain resort town that is beautiful year-round.

By Cassandra Lord

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.

Shopping Streets

harunire terrace

Photo by: iStock/ colinhui The umbrellas come out in summer to decorate Harunire Terrace.

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

karuizawa bird sanctuary

Photo by: iStock/ neil bowman Take a stroll around the spacious 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

Shiraito no Taki in Karuizawa Japan

Photo by: iStock/ show999 A natural landmark.

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.

Things To Know

Getting Around

Although there are buses and walking routes, some shrines and natural sights are hard to visit without a car. There are several car rental options near Karuizawa Station. For getting around the town proper, you can also opt for one-day bike rentals.

How To Get There


By train

From Tokyo Station, take the Hokuriku-Shinkansen to Karuizawa station. The journey takes up to an hour and 17 minutes depending on the train and costs ¥6,220 one-way.

Tourists and foreign residents can take advantage of the JR Tokyo Wide Pass which covers roundtrip transportation to Karuizawa and the surrounding area at ¥10,180.

By bus

You can take a highway bus from Ikebukuro or Shibuya to Karuizawa it takes around 3 hours. Bus tickets start at ¥2,700.

By car

Karuizawa is a 2-hour and 45-minute drive from central Tokyo.

Where To Stay

APA Hotel Karuizawa-Ekimae Karuizawaso
  • 1178-1135 Karuizawa (Oaza), Kitasaku-gun Karuizawa-machi, Nagano, 389-0102 Japan
  • ¥9,000 - ¥102,700
  • 3.58/5 (1,188 reviews)
  • 0.5 km
The Gran Resort Elegante Karuizawa
  • 288 Karuizawahigashi, Kitasaku-gun Karuizawa-machi, Nagano, 389-0104 Japan
  • ¥12,650 - ¥14,080
  • 3.95/5 (78 reviews)
  • 0.6 km
Karuizawa Pension Sato no Nukumori
  • 1323-283 Karuizawa (Oaza), Kitasaku-gun Karuizawa-machi, Nagano, 389-0102 Japan
  • ¥5,940 - ¥61,560
  • 4.18/5 (274 reviews)
  • 0.6 km
Hotel Cypress Karuizawa
  • 287-1 Karuizawahigashi, Kitasaku-gun Karuizawa-machi, Nagano, 389-0104 Japan
  • ¥12,800 - ¥44,600
  • 4.3/5 (1,528 reviews)
  • 0.6 km
Twin-Line Hotel Karuizawa Japan
  • 1151-11 Ikanikeisaiganaibaai, Kitasaku-gun Karuizawa-machi, Nagano, 389-0100 Japan
  • ¥22,800 - ¥83,600
  • 4.36/5 (337 reviews)
  • 0.7 km

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