In need of an escape from the big city?
Karuizawa offers Tokyoites the perfect chance of chill and relaxation with very little effort at all.
Karuizawa station is just one hour from Omiya station on the Shinkansen and the moment you get off the train, you can feel the crisp, fresh air hit your face; the mountains are in sight and in Autumn, the warm colours of the leaves greet you too.
For the bargain hunters amongst you, there is a massive outlet mall with, seriously, everything from the outdoor brands to the designer brands to lots of food! Prince resort hotels run the outlet malls as well as three resort hotels within walking distance – useful to know, especially with too many bags of shopping! There is also a ski resort at one and dog cottages as well (worth noting that the dog cottages are lovely, cosy log cabins with rooms for 4 people and their dogs and are right at the bottom of the ski slope!) – endless fun for all!
We headed up north, away from the shopping hub. It was Autumn, at least at sea level, and we wanted to enjoy the colours around us. We drove up and up, quite high in fact, and realised that we were already in winter season – crunchy brown leaves were waiting for us and the air was even fresher. Being up so high afforded us a joyously spectacular view of the trees on the slopes below us. We stayed in Karuizawa Kogen Village, at the Hotel 1180, nearby the Toy Kingdom (Omochiya Ookoku), a great day(s) out for the kids - you can even decorate your own mugs and key rings there too! A little memento of the occasion!
Not to be missed in the area is the famous Mount Asama - Even in late Autumn, there is already snow! From Hotel 1180, you can get a roof top shot of the active volcano! Ironically, when we read reviews of the area, people complained that there was little to do there in Kita Karuizawa!
But, that was exactly what we were looking for – walks in the forests, cycling around the quiet roads discovering quaint restaurants – it was the perfect weekend getaway from Tokyo!