At an altitude of 1,000 meters with a surrounding of the scenic Nagano mountains lie the little winding streets of Karuizawa. A huge array of both summer and winter activities from golf and tennis to skiing and hot spring hopping make this magical pocket of central Japan just over an hour from Tokyo an unmissable spot throughout the year.
Being located at the base of an active volcano doesn’t appear to put anyone off visiting Karuizawa. A mountain resort known as one of the top spots for urbanites to buy a second home, Karuizawa is the Méribel of Japan sporting beautiful mountains that make for a great day out for hikers, cyclists, and snow sports fanatics. While the mountain town may be highly frequented by both Japanese and foreign visitors alike, its vibes remain relaxed making it the perfect chillout destination.
While the temperature in Japan shoots up over summer along with the humidity, Karuizawa’s position up in the mountains promises cooler weather and a welcome breeze. Many Japanese families take advantage of the chance to escape the city heat by heading to Karuizawa to enjoy the fresh air at a traditional ryokan or camping ground. As a hot spot for refreshing outdoor sports, you’ll find an abundance of tennis courts, cycling routes, and reputed golf courses.
One of the first celebrity couples to set the trend of holidaying in Karuizawa was John Lennon and Yoko Ono who famously took frequent trips to the town in the 1970s where they stayed at Mampei Hotel. Many establishments still take pride in photos of the couple visiting their shop so look out for Lennon-Ono and The Beatles photos and references allowing visitors to follow a John Lennon tour of the town.
For winter getaways, Karuizawa offers cosy stays with the surrounding snow-capped mountains and glistening white birch trees. As well as skiing and snowboarding aplenty, the town fills up with winter-themed activities such as ice skating, while anyone looking to warm their cockles can head over to a natural hot spring, including the ever popular Shiotsubo Onsen and Hoshino Onsen.
The Hokuriku Shinkansen whizzes its passengers into Karuizawa Station in just 1 hour and 20 minutes with the rest of the town easily accessible from here. Though the train station is found in the new part of the town which is made up of convenient shops and restaurants, the real charm of the city lies in Kyu-Karuizawa, the old town. Just a 20-minute walk from the station, visitors are greeted by traditional architecture and plenty of shopping opportunities, including along the popular Ginza shopping street.
NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR