My name is Keith Norum, and I’ve lived in the Lake Suwa highland basin for over twenty years. During that time, I’ve traveled to many other beautiful places around the world for business and personal reasons, but every time I come back to these mountains, I am reminded of why this has been my home for so long—and this is especially true during Japan’s notoriously hot and humid summer.
The Lake Suwa basin is situated about 800 meters above sea level, surrounded by the 2000+ meter summits of the Japan Alps and the Yatsugatake “Eight Peaks” Range. The mountains act as a natural air conditioner, protecting Suwa from the coastal heat and humidity, and blessing it with relatively cool, dry, and sunny summer weather. And because Suwa is just an easy two-hour express train ride from central Tokyo, it offers a perfect weekend escape from the city heat.
The region has long been famous for its many natural hot spring “onsen” baths and resorts, and is a mecca for outdoor recreation from hiking to bicycling to canoeing. Suwa’s natural treasures have attracted people to this area from the very dawn of Japanese history, so you can see several millennia of Japanese culture in one place, including a Jomon-era reconstructed village, the Suwa Taisha Shinto shrines (among the oldest in Japan), centuries-old architecture lining the Edo-era “koshu kaido” and “nakasendo” post roads, and several Japanese and western art museums collected around the shores of the lake.
The pristine environment also has made the Suwa region famous for the quality of its food and drink. The surrounding highland farms produce some of the very best vegetables, dairy, and meat products in Japan, and this area is well-known for its soba noodles, grilled unagi, miso, and delicious sake. Considering its relatively small population and rural location, Suwa has a surprising variety of restaurants serving Japanese, Italian, provincial French, and Asian cuisine at a quality level normally found only in big cities—but without the big city prices.
All of this has made Suwa a wonderful place to live, and I am sure you will find it an equally wonderful place to visit. Hope you can join us!
By Keith Norum