Kyu-Karuizawa (őîîyłńĹ˛, Kyū-Karuizawa) was formerly a post town along the Nakasendo Route, one of two major road connections that connected the imperial capital Kyoto with the shogunal capital Edo (present-day Tokyo) during the Edo Period. Today, Kyu-Karuizawa is the main center of the Karuizawa resort area.
The town has a pleasant atmosphere with chic restaurants and cafes aiming at affording patrons and with forested residential districts made up of holiday villas. Kyu-Karuizawa offers a wide range of shopping opportunities as well, notably at the Prince Shopping Plaza and the Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza. Visitors can also indulge in some of the many leisure activities available, such as bowling, golf and cycling around town.
Hours: 10:00 to 18:00 (Varying hours for shops; restaurants typically open later) Closed: Varying closing days for shops
Karuizawa offers a wide range of shopping opportunities, including a local version of Ginza, Tokyo's most famous upmarket shopping district. The Karuizawa Ginza shopping street has a romantic ambiance and is suited for a stroll or for buying souvenirs and local desserts. Jam is a local specialty and many shops here offer it in multiple flavors. Towards the end of the shopping street stands the Shaw Memorial Church, founded in 1895 by a missionary named A.C. Shaw, who popularized Karuizawa as a vacation destination.
Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza
Hours: 10:00 to 19:00 (varies according to season) Closed: Few unscheduled closing days
A newer addition to Karuizawa's shopping attractions, the Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza is an outlet mall for popular brands, outdoor goods, sports wear and trendy items. The mall's pleasant surroundings make it a lovely destination for a walk even if shopping is not on your agenda. There are also a few dining establishments here, which usually operate until later than the shops.
Kumobaike is a photogenic pond located about 1.5 kilometers northwest of Karuizawa Station. The pond is a popular spot for viewing autumn colors, which are typically at their best here around mid October to early November.
Beautiful views over the mountains of Gunma Prefecture on one side and Mount Asama on the other side can be enjoyed from this observation platform. The Kumano Shrine located nearby is also interesting because it straddles the Gunma-Nagano prefectural border.
Karuizawa Prince Ski Resort
This is one of the first ski resorts in Japan to open each year, albeit with man-made snow and only a couple of runs open during the early season. A transition to natural snow usually occurs later in the season depending on precipitation conditions, and more runs become available. The resort might be slightly lacking in terms of size and snow quality, but it is one of the most easily accessible from Tokyo.
Former Mikasa Hotel
Closed until March 2024 for renovation
One of Japan's first Western style hotels, the Mikasa Hotel served travelers to Karuizawa from 1906 until 1970. Today, the former hotel is preserved for its heritage, and it is open to the public as a museum.
Getting there and around
Kyu-Karuizawa Town can be explored comfortably by bicycle. Rental shops close to Karuizawa Station and the Karuizawa Ginza offer bicycles at around 1000 yen per day. For good walkers, exploring the town on foot is also pleasant; the walk from Karuizawa Station to the Former Mikasa Hotel takes just under an hour one way, and stops can be made at various attractions along the way.
Various buses travel between Karuizawa Station and the Karuizawa Ginza multiple times per hour (5-10 minutes, 150-160 yen one way), including buses by Kusakaru Kotsu that continue via the Shiraito Waterfall (25 minutes, 720 yen) in the direction of Kusatsu Onsen and Seibu buses that continue to Naka-Karuizawa.