Autumn Weekend Getaways from Tokyo

Stepping out of summer and into autumn is one of the most exciting times of the year!

It’s inspiring to be outdoors surrounded by vibrant splashes of colour as the momiji turn from green into the most surreal shades of yellow, orange and red. I am constantly in awe of Mother Nature and the things she’s capable of. Continue reading “Autumn Weekend Getaways from Tokyo”

Colourful Karuizawa

Karuizawa: Round two!

I was in Karuizawa just last month, enjoying some beautiful nature spots as well as shopping at the huge brand outlet Prince Shopping Plaza. I liked it so much there that I decided I HAD to go again! This time, it was during their Autumn Festival. I stopped off with a friend on our way back to Tokyo from Toyama.

The colours, the vibrant colours! Reds, yellows, oranges, greens; and blue skies reflecting in the water. It was a sight to behold. I spent the whole day on foot, exploring the backstreets and woodlands, marvelling at the beauty of this lovely town.

Despite how these pictures may look, it was actually very, very crowded, especially at the famous Lake Kumoba. The autumn-leaves spots higher up in the mountains, like Shiraito Falls which I visited last time, were already past their peak, so everyone seemed to be making the most of the lower altitude places while they still could. Like in Toyama, the forecasted rain held off, and instead we were blessed with a sunny (but chilly) day!

Perhaps the next time I visit Karuizawa, it’ll be winter, and that fake snow will be covered in the genuine stuff. I can’t wait to go snowboarding, but it’s a little too early to be thinking about winter. One season at a time. The peak autumn-leaves viewing time in Tokyo is coming soon!

Karuizawa: Luxury meets Tranquility

I asked a few Japanese friends what came to mind when they thought of Karuizawa. Everyone had the same reaction:

“Summer resort!”

I only found out about Karuizawa recently, actually. After the summer holidays, a colleague told me about his great trip there with his ‘well-off’ friends! Curious to see this resort for myself, I made it the destination for the second day of my two-day trip. After a day exploring the town of Matsumoto, I jumped on the train and made my way around the mountain range to Karuizawa.

The town lies about an hour’s train ride from Tokyo (via bullet train). It’s roughly divided into five different areas, with plenty to do in each – camping, swimming, fishing, birdwatching, playing golf or tennis, horseback riding, hiking and lots more. It’s all about being able to relax and enjoy being surrounded by nature! And at 1,000m above sea level, this cool mountain town makes for the perfect getaway during hot July and August.

For those less ‘outdoors’ inclined, Karuizawa is also home to lots of boutique stores, gourmet restaurants and one of the biggest brand outlet shopping malls in Japan, the Prince Shopping Plaza. This massive, and very beautiful I might add, mall sits on a 26-hectare lot complete with a lake and gardens. With about 240 shops, I was hoping to snag a bargain, but alas even outlet items are still far beyond my reach. It was nice to dream though!

Karuizawa is not just any old summer resort. It is also known as a playground for the rich and famous. Since the late 1800s, the town has been frequented by the Imperial family, prime ministers, sportspeople, actors, musicians, writers and poets. Many wealthy Tokyoites have second houses here (like my colleague’s friend). Over half of the homes in the area are used only as holiday houses! In the summer, so many people migrate here that the population of the town increases tenfold!

Despite the allure of shopping malls and mansions, it was a walk through the woods that really captivated me. The air was so pure, so cool, so fresh! I just wanted to stand there and breathe it all in. From the bus stop, the walk up to Shiraito Falls is a short 5 minute one. But once you get there, it’s hard to leave! The waterfall naturally comes out from the rocks, although I did read that the rocks have been altered in some way to help the whole ‘curtain’ look. Still, it is impressive.

I can definitely understand why thousands of people flock here in the summer. Luxury meets tranquility. It’s a beautiful place and has made me see Japan in a new light. I had no idea such a resort existed! So Japan is not all about ‘work work work’, but they do enjoy a dash of ‘play’!