Karuizawa [軽井沢]

Forest in Karuizawa
Forest in Karuizawa

Mount Asama from Karuizawa
Mount Asama from Karuizawa

Karuizawa is a famous resort town at the northeastern end of Nagano Prefecture.
It is located about 130 km northwest of Tokyo.

The town is at the southeastern foot of Mount Asama, and the altitude is about 1,000 meters.

In 1886, Canadian missionary Alexander Croft Shaw (1846-1902) visited here by chance.

He felt that this area resembled his hometown of Scotland, so he built his villa for a summer resort in 1888.

He introduced Karuizawa as the best resort around Tokyo to his friends.
After that, many foreign missionaries and intellectuals spent summer vacation in this town.

In the 20th century, several resort hotels and golf courses built here.
Then, here became one of the popular resort towns.

In 1958, when Emperor Heisei was the Crown Prince, he fell in love with a lady to be the Empress (Shoda Michiko, born a commoner) in a tennis court in Karuizawa.

And, John Lennon (1940-1980, a member of The Beatles) had stayed here with his family almost every summer for his last several years.

Therefore, Karuizawa became a high‐class resort.

Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza
Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza

Kumoba-ike in autumn
Kumoba-ike in autumn

Karuizawa is divided into four districts roughly.

The easten districts is Old Karuizawa (旧軽井沢).

Mr. Shaw built his villa in this district, so there are many old villas and hotels.
Because there is the Karuizawa station of Hokuriku Shinkansen, many tourists visit here.

The southern district of Karuizawa station has several golf courses and a ski resort.
And many small museums are dotted in this district.

About 4 km to the west of Old Karuizawa, there is Naka-Karuizawa (中軽井沢) district.

The district is around Naka-Karuizawa station of Shinano Railway Line, and the surrounding area of this district has rich nature.
In the district, there are many popular restaurants and cafes.

The district of the western edge is Oiwake (追分).

It is located at the soutern foot of Mount Asama.
The district has a feeling of old posting station.

To travel around Karuizawa, some route buses in the town are operated but they are operated every a few hours.
So, if you visit many spots, rental car may be useful.

Old Karuizawa (旧軽井沢)

Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza
Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza
Photo by Nagano Tourism Organization

St. Paul Catholic Church
St. Paul Catholic Church
Photo by Nagano Tourism Organization

Map of Karuizawa

  • (1) Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza (旧軽井沢銀座)

    Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza is the main town in Old Karuizawa.
    ("Kyu" means "old" in Japanese.)

    The street is popular, so "Ginza" (Famous downtown in Tokyo) is named.

    The entrance is located about 1.5 km north of Karuizawa station. The length is about 500 meters.

    Originally, here was Karuizawa post station which was placed on a main route between Edo (old Tokyo) and Kyoto in Edo Period (1603-1868).
    After that, Mr. Shaw built his villa around here.

    There are many shops, restaurants and cafes.

  • (2) St. Paul Catholic Church (聖パウロカトリック教会)

    St. Paul Catholic Church is the church founded in 1935.
    It was built by Antonín Raymond (1888-1976), an American architect born in Czech.

    At that time, the foreigners staying in Karuizawa were increasing and the number was over 1,300.
    This church was built for the people.

    It is located about 200 meters northwest of Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza.
    The church has a large triangular roof and a spire, and is the symbol of Karuizawa.

Shaw Memorial Church
Shaw Memorial Church
Photo by Nagano Tourism Organization

Former Mikasa Hotel
Former Mikasa Hotel
Photo by Free Sozaiya Hoshino

  • (3) Shaw Memorial Church & Shaw House (ショー記念礼拝堂, ショーハウス記念館)

    Shaw Memorial Church is the restored church built by Shaw as the first church in Karuizawa in 1895.

    By the church, there is Shaw House.
    It was the Shaw's villa built in 1888, and was restored and reconstructed in this place in 1986.

    It is located at the north end of Karuizawa Ginza.

  • (4) Former Mikasa Hotel (旧三笠ホテル)

    Former Mikasa Hotel was a luxury hotel built in 1905.

    The Western-style building was designed by Japanese architects.
    American-style, British-style and German-style parts are combined.

    The hotel was closed in 1970, and was designated as a nationally important cultural property in 1980.

    It is located about 3.5 km north of Karuizawa station.

Kumoba-ike
Kumoba-ike

Shiraito Falls
Shiraito Falls

  • (5) Kumoba-ike pond (雲場池)

    Kumoba-ike is a small and long pond located about 1.2 km northwest of Karuizawa station.

    It is the pond that a stream was dammed up.
    The pond is surrounded with forest and a few museums are dotted.

    The surface of the water is calm, so the scenery of forests are reflected clearly.

    The foreigners have called it "Swan Lake", and it is one of popular spots in Karuizawa.

  • (6) Shiraito Falls (白糸の滝)

    Shiraito Falls is located about 8.5 km north-northwest of Karuizawa station and is near the highway to Kusatsu Onsen.

    It is just at the east foot of Mount Asama, and the groundwater falls like many thin threads.
    "Shiraito" means "white thread".

    It is 10 meters high and 15 meters wide.
    We feel as if we see a Japanese garden.

Naka-Karuizawa (中軽井沢)

Karuizawa Kogen Church
Karuizawa Kogen Church

Tonbo-no-Yu in Hoshino Onsen
Tonbo-no-Yu in Hoshino Onsen
Photo by Nagano Tourism Organization

Map of Karuizawa

  • (11) Karuizawa Kogen Church (軽井沢高原教会)

    Karuizawa Kogen Church is located about 1.2 km north of Naka-Karuizawa station.

    It was founded by some Japanese Christians in 1921.
    It is popular as a church for wedding ceremony.

  • (12) Hoshino Onsen (星野温泉)

    Hoshino Onsen is a hot spring resort located to the north of Karuizawa Kogen Church.

    There is a onsen hotel near the church and a public bathhouse Tonbo-no-Yu.

    In addition, a restaurant Sonmin-Shokudo and a commercial facility HARUNIRE Terrace are also popular.

    Hoshino Resorts

Bird watching in Yacho-no-mori
Bird watching in Yacho-no-mori
Photo by Nagano Tourism Organization

Sengataki falls
Sengataki falls

  • (13) Yacho-no-mori forest (Picchio) (野鳥の森)

    Yacho-no-mori is the 102-hectare national forest.
    "Yacho" means "wild birds" and "Picchio" is the nickname of this forest.

    About 80 kinds of birds live in this forest, and some wild animals also live.
    The best season of bird watching is from December to May.

    The entrance is located about 0.5 km north of Karuizawa kogen Church.
    There are the walking trails about 3 km long in the forest.

  • (14) Sengataki falls (千ヶ滝)

    Sengataki is the waterfall located about 5 km north-northwest of Naka-Karuizawa station.

    It is at the southeast foot of Mount Asama.
    It is said that much water fall after a rain.

    The height is about 20 meters. We must walk about 1.5 km from the parking lot.

Southern Karuizawa & Oiwake

Karuizawa Taliesin
Karuizawa Taliesin
Photo by Railstation.net

Suikyuso Villa in Karuizawa Taliesin
Suikyuso Villa in Karuizawa Taliesin
Photo by Railstation.net

Map of Karuizawa

  • (21) Karuizawa Taliesin (軽井沢タリアセン)

    Karuizawa Taliesin is a cultural facility complex located 2.5 km south of Naka-Karuizawa station.

    There are four museums, a rose garden, restaurants, and some sports and amusement facilities around Lake Shiozawa.
    (It is said that "Taliesin" means "shining face" in Welsh language.)

  • (22) Oiwake post station museum (追分宿郷土館)

    Oiwake post station museum is the museum displaying the articles in regard to this post station in the 17th to 19th centuries.

    It is located about 1 km northwest of Shinano-Oiwake station.

    This station was a major junction of the main roads to Kyoto and to the Sea of Japan side.
    So, this station bustled with the travellers.

How to get here

By Hokuriku Shinkansen, about 1 hours 10 minutes from Tokyo.
From Karuizawa, by Shinano Railway, about 5 minutes to Naka-Karuizawa, about 9 minutes to Shinano-Oiwake.

Hotels in Karuizawa

Hotels in Karuizawa

Other Tourist Attractions in Nagano Prefecture

Northern part

Mount Asama Kaikoen Bessho Onsen Sugadaira highland Zenkoji temple Obuse town Yudanaka-Shibu Onsen towns Jigokudani Monkey Park Shiga highland Nozawa Onsen Lake Nojiri Mount Togakushi

Central part

Tateshina highland Kirigamine highland Lake Suwa Matsumoto Castle Azumino town Utsukushigahara

Along Northern Alps

Kamikochi Norikura highland Lake Aoki Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route Hakuba village

Along Kiso Valley

Narai post station Mount Ontake Nezame-no-toko gorge Tsumago & Magome post stations

Along Ina Valley

Mount Kiso-Komagatake Takatô Castle Ruins Park Tenryukyo gorge

Return to Nagano Prefecture Return to Koshin-etsu Region

Other prefectures in Koshin-etsu Region