Having recognized that alomost all the posts on this blog are realated to sightseeing within Nagano, I dare to post this info on tranportation from Tokyo as I thought this is quite useful & helpful for anyone planning on visiting Karuizawa and its nearby town. Most visitors to this site wants to know not only the places to visit but also how to get there and how much it costs! Believe or not, you can come to Karuizawa from Shinjuku, Tokyo by bus for just 2000yen! It’s an amazing price and less than half of the cost of Shinkansen from Tokyo. But the down side is that it takes about 2 hours 30 min, which is about twice as long as Shinkansen. The bus arrives at a parking area win Karuizawa Price Shopping Plaza New East.
For details visit the bus reservation page at Rakuten Travel
(Find the bus route ” KR421 ” in the list. Using Japanese web sites for booking public transportation and hotels is always headache. And unfortunately this is not an exception. Price may vary by season and day of the week.)
Bus to Karuizawa
Have you been to a no-en farm in Japan? The farm I’m writing about here is a little different from normal farm (no-jo, no-chi in Japanese). It is no-en, like a small nature-oriented amusement park with restaurants and shops etc. Matsui No-en is one of the best known no-en in East Nagano area. It was about 30 minutes drive from our house in Karuizawa. When I and our family went there, it was still during summer vacation. So its car parking lot was almost full even before the lunch time. Matsui No-en had a lot to offer for families. First of all we had a BBQ lunch with fresh vegetables (which we believed were cultivated in the Matsui farm) at a restaurant inside the farm area. We fished trouts in a fishing pond. Then we went to apple picking. And before we went home, we had a big, blueberry flavored ice cream. Matsui No-en is in Komoro, West bound from Karuizawa, about 30 mintutes by car. It was a good, easy half-day get away from home. There are only Japanese spoken staff, but they are all friendly and helpful.
http://www.matsui-farm.co.jp/ (Japanese only) On the homepage, it says it’s been running since 1941! In the no-en, you can enjoy blueberry picking and cosmos pickinig too. No admissioni fee. At charge for each service. Free parking.
Two weeks ago, I went to see a golf match the other day – the NEC Karuizawa 72 (seven-two) Golf Tournament on the LPGA of Japan Tour, held in 72 North Course. I and my son entered before 10AM. It was Friday, but there was alreay a number of visitors. Ai Miyazato (fresh from her breakthrough win at Evian and T3 at the Women’s British Open), Momoko Ueda who came off previous week’s win on tour and other big players including Akiko Fukushima and Sakura Yokomine were there. The 72 North (Kita) Course is 6637 yards, par 72. The 72 consists of 4 well run courses. The North Course is just one of them. Some people say some holes on the course are boring but I believe that you never forget its beatiful landscape and good layout. So if you golf or big fan, it’s worth a visit. Don’t ask me if I scored good on the course. Well, sorry I’ve never played there. *_*;; Wish to be able to clearly report on my score at this blog within 10 years… Photos and videos are not allowed inside. So I just took one shot at the entrance.
Japanese web site : Karuizawa 72 North Course.
Some English information available at Golf-In-Japan web site.
Finally, Harunire Terrace is opened at the Hoshino area. I would think this is going to be one of the popular tourist attractions in Karuizawa. If I put “Harunire”, maybe it’s hard for some to pronouce properly and others to hear clearly. I always think ” L ” should be used instead of ” R ” for describing Japanese accent la, li, lu, le, lo. Could anyone agree? 🙂 Anyway, the Harunire’s ” nire ” or ” nile ” is an elm tree. The place is surrounded by about a hundred elm trees and there are 14 shops including eco-modern style restaurants, cafe and souvenir shops etc. I actually liked the area’s atmosphere created by Hoshino Resort and personally like the way they do business. Some may still prefer Prince Shopping Plaza but Harunire area has different stores and goods. I visited there about two weeks ago so there was not much traffic in and around the parking lot but to tell you the truth, I’m a little worried the lack of parking space during summer season and the golden week. So the best time to go there is before lunch time or after 5pm.
Link to the homepage (Japanese only) http://www.hoshinoya.com/facilities/harunire.html
Shiraito-no-taki Waterfall is one of the most famous sites with great nature in Karuizawa area. While its height is only 3 meters, the width is about 70 meters long. Surprisingly, the water’s temperature is not so cold. The reason is because the water is not originally from river or rainfall, but is gushing out of rocks. Also the amount of water coming out does not change much throughout the year. I thought the water contains a lot of minerals so I wanted to taste it. But I did not since no one around me was drinking it.
From the left end of the waterfall, you’ll find a trail that leads to a great forest. Watch out for wild bears! Free parking lot available. But we recommend visiting there in the morning to avoid conjestion for parking. There are several food stands and souvenir shops along the car street. About 25min by bus bound for Kita-karuizawa. Get off at Shiraito-no-taki Bus Stop. The beautiful, healing waterfall is about 5min walk from there. Of course, the admission is free, so are the fresh air and mist from the waterfall! It’s worth visiting if you plan to come to East Nagano.
For parents who have small kids or babies, rainy season is kind of headache because they can’t take their children out to a park or even just outside home. In Karuizawa, the Flower kids factory is one of the few recommended places where kids can help ” kill ” their time. The toy store or omocha-ya-san is in the Prince Shopping Plaza (New West building 37A) by the JR Karuizawa Station. When we moved to Nagano from Tokyo, I was wondering how people residing out of town spend a day when it’s raining. Maybe thier kids do get so bored staying in thier house because the size of their houses is usually bigger than those of Tokyo? Anyway, there is a wonderful Thomas the Tank Engine railway at the toy store. It’s 200yen per round but a Thomas card is given too! It’s not only for boys. Every time I take my son there, I also see some girls riding the Thomas. Of course you adults can ride too. Free admission to the mini theme park!
Link to Flower Kids Factory http://www.princehotels.co.jp/shopping/karuizawa/shop/nw/nw37a.html (Japanese only)
Our family love the Tsuruya’s Original “Kurogoma Butter” (Black Sesame Butter). It’s a private brand by Tsuruya, the largest super market in East Nagano (Toshin) area. There is a variety of butter and jams for bread available at Tsuruya, but we never buy other than this Kurogoma Butter. It’s actually not like butter with black sesame but rather like less soft spread, sesame paste with a bit of butter flavor. I believe that Kurogoma Butter is really healthy as the label says it contains calcium, iron and dietary fiber. However, every time I pick it up from the shelf, I think of any better name for the product, because something + butter sounds it contains a lot of butter. Anyway, if you go to the super market, you’ll find tons of the Kurogoma Butter bins. And Shirogoma Butter (white sesame) too! As far as I know, Tsuruya Karuizawa sells Kurogoma one more than Shirogoma one. One Kurogoma Butter bin with 210g costs less than 400yen.
While my stay in Karuizawa, somtimes I go to Tombo-no-yu, a communal bathhouse at Hoshinoya area with my wife and son. But we do not take bath so often, but rather spend 1 or 2 hours around the bathhouse. There are some hills with a little path on a grass field and there is a cafe next to the bathhouse.
For anyone interested in Tombo-no-yu, although inside is not so spacious, hot spring water is good. As many other popular sites in Karuizawa, I would not recommend going there during weekends in summer and golden week in May. Much too crowded during the holidays, though it would not be so bad as a rush-hour train in Tokyo. I like going there during weekdays. The fee for bath is a bit pricy — 1200yen for adult, 700yen for children. It’s open: 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. (Last admission 10:00 p.m.) TEL: 0267-44-3580.
Today, I went to the Tsuruya the large super market near my house. As you can see on the photo, there was no one else walking in the section. (the photo is taken at the beer & other alcohols section ). We saw some people in some other sections but still not so many. In terms of the size and variety of foods, the Tsuruya in Karuizawa is the “super” largest super market which I have been to in Japan. All the ones with other corporates in Tokyo are smaller as you may know. There are a few convenience stores in / around Karuizawa but any one who is planning on staying a few days or more in Karuizawa, I recommend Tsuruya to buy breakfast meals such as dairy foods and meats and even row fish. Today (still in April) we felt the store was deserted but it was just fun to wander around the store. But make sure to remember that there will be huge number of people especially in July and August.
Entrance to Seifuso Ryokan
I stayed at a ryokan in Yudanaka Onsen the other day. The private onsen bath was quite nice.
The elder owners speak only Japanese but the young manager (my friend) can speak a bit of English and he is very helpful. If you are looking for a real traditional ryokan near the Yudanaka Station, I would recommend the place. Yudanaka is the end staition of Nagano Dentetsu that comes from Nagano Station.
Yudanaka Onsen at dusk
Also Yudanaka onsen is one of the hot spring places with convenient access to Jigokudani Yaen Koen (the Snow Monkey Park or Onsen Monkeys). Anyone interested in staying in the affordable ryokan with the old wooden building, check out his English blog site at http://ameblo.jp/yudanaka-seifuso/