WESTERN RESORT IN THE ORIENT, Karuizawa (軽井沢), Japan
At the foot of Mt. Asama, Honshu’s most active volcano, stands a mountain resort town that first captivated the attention of Westerners in late 19th century. Since then, it grew into a summer resort for many Tokyo residents, including the royal family. In the 1970s, John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent several summers at Karuizawa for retreat. Today, the shinkansen bullet train takes a little over an hour to connect Karuizawa and Tokyo, a rather convenient day trip for visitors who want to take a break from the bustling scenes of the Japanese capital. Visitors come for the natural scenery, the Westernized old town, the interesting galleries, the large shopping outlet right by the railway station, or just a breathe of cool air and peaceful atmosphere to escape the summer heat in urban Tokyo.
Outside the railway station, the tranquil air of the countryside offers a big contrast from the dense and intense urban scene of Tokyo. On the south side stands the large shopping outlet, and the north side rows of pitched roof houses and streets leading into the old town centre. It’s about a half hour walk from the railway station to the town centre.
In the town centre of Karuizawa, one of the busiest restaurant is Kawakamian (川上庵), a delightful restaurant specialized in soba buckwheat noodles.
The dining area of Kawakamian (川上庵) was fully occupied when we were there.
At Kawakamian (川上庵), we ended up getting a table at the outdoor terrace.
Duck meat soba noodles of Kawakamian (川上庵).
Tempura vegetable and shrimp with soba at Kawakamian (川上庵).
There are a few patisserie shops in Karuizawa. Gateau des Clochette (ガトゥ・デ・クロシェット) is a popular one with tourists.
A row of old timber houses at the high street of Karuizawa (旧軽井沢銀座通り) reveals the former European atmosphere of the town.
Cafes, restaurants, patisserie shops and souvenir stores can be found at the pedestrian high street of Karuizawa.
Dairy products from the area is popular among visitors.
This doll house-like timber house is a popular cafe on the high street.
In the new town centre, we passed by a flea market selling all kinds of old household items in a parking lot.
Halfway between the old town and the railway station, the Karuizawa New Art Museum (軽井沢ニューアートミュージアム) offers tourists and the local community a pleasant stop for art exhibitions.
Directly south of the railway station is the large retail outlet frequented by tourists. The environment of the outlet is completely different than the high street of the old town.
A water pond in the middle of the outlet offers a pleasant park setting for shoppers.
Right by the pond is the circular restaurant pavilion. The openness and scale of the outlet made me feel like traveling in North America.
Shinkansen bullet train makes the trip from Tokyo to Karuizawa in a little over an hour.