Today I’m going to talk about the small town of Karuizawa, one hour north-west of Tokyo by bullet train and a popular summer resort due its high altitude (about 1km about sea level) and lower temperatures. It is situated in Nagano Prefecture and in the Japanese Alps.
While most people visit the town in summer to escape the heat, it was winter both times I went there. I like the snow and the Christmas decorations, though you’ll have to go there before Christmas to see those, as they take them away pretty quickly once Christmas is over.
If you go on a cold weekday before Christmas like I did a few years ago, chances are the town will be practically deserted and you’ll be free to roam the town basically by yourself. There are still a couple of cafes open to enjoy some hot cocoa in the snow. If you go during the New Years holiday, as I did this time, the Christmas decoration will be gone and it will be more crowded, though not unbearably so.
My favorite thing to do in Karuizawa is to just walk around in the snow and enjoy eating and having hot drinks. Skiing is a popular activity this season as well, though it’s not really my thing, probably because I’m terrible at it. The last time I skied (or tried to) I fell about twenty times and gave up.
The town offers plenty of beautiful hotels, ryokan, cottages, and pensions to stay at, with different themes and atmospheres. I last stayed at Piccolo Hotel Opera, run by a couple who, as you might have guessed from the name, loves the opera, and has decorated their hotel with opera-themed items. The owner has been to Europe numerous times and I had a pleasant conversation about different countries with him.
The town of Karuizawa is small but has a few popular attractions, such as the Trick Art Museum, where you can enjoy some optical illusions and take some strange-looking pictures, as if you were a giant, upside-down, and so on.
Another popular attraction is the humongous outlet shopping mall. This might honestly be biggest outlet mall I’ve ever seen, and people come all the way from Tokyo just to shop here. I’m not a big fan of shopping for the sake of it, and the mall is packed with people, so it wouldn’t be my first choice, but if you like window shopping it’s next to the station and it certainly has a lot to offer. I bought some souvenirs there and left.
While Karuizawa is a popular destination to escape the heat, I recommend going there around Christmas if you can bear the negative temperatures, and simply enjoy the decorations, the atmosphere, the snow, the food and the hot drinks.
Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
My email is ” firstname.lastname@example.org “, by all means contact me about anything!
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