Mountains of fun
Karuizawa in Nagano has for decades been a haven from the
summer heat for city dwellers. It is also one of the nation's most
Karuizawa, the place John Lennon and Yoko Ono helped make
famous was, according to Lonely Planet, ‘discovered' by a man
of the cloth – one Archdeacon Shaw. Doing what so many
colonials of his day did, Shaw ignored the tranquil lives of the
locals, took word of Karuizawa to the world and this one-time
mountain village has not looked back since.
Fast forward to the modern day, and you have a town built
almost entirely on the back of the tourist yen. The designer
shops and chic restaurants may not best suit those with bottles
to heat up and nappies to change but the scenery and entertainment
for all ages found dotted around this corner of Japan's
Central Alps, as well as nature in abundance have all long since
blended to produce a town that welcomes, hosts and draws
back visitors of all ages, time and time again.
The area adjacent to the town's station and shopping centres
features manicured gardens where parents can let watch their
toddlers roam free while their partners are elsewhere in the
abundant brand-name shops abusing the credit card.
Less obvious and therefore more appealing is the Hotel Green
Plaza Karuizawa (part of the Karuizawa Resort), which looks like
an English country manor of centuries past and is located a forty-
five minute drive from the main shinkansen terminus. It is best
reached using the free shuttle bus as the hotel is nestled in a hardto-
find quiet corner of a sprawling million square-metre estate.
Surrounded by rolling hills coated in deciduous trees, the hotel
is fully kitted out to accommodate little visitors with onsen
facilities providing child-size chairs and facilities, a buffet style
restaurant serving meals early enough for little Taro, to be fed
and get to bed and even provides baby and child menus.
Tables with rounded corners and safe, fully protected and
easily monitored play areas set aside in one wing of the hotel
take care of those moments Mum and Dad want to do nothing
without keeping one hand over a sharp table corner or plug hole
and contribute in no small way to the experience as does the
shop selling the baby goods that you left next to the TV at home.
A ten-minute walk, or two-minute shuttle bus ride away, still
in the estate, is the excellent day out destination of Omochaoukoku
— Toy Kingdom with star of the show — Anpanman, a golf
course, kiddy putting area and numerous forest walks. All are
set off against the impressive backdrop of the snow-clad and
highly active volcano of Mount Asama (2,568m) meaning that
there shouldn't be a single member of the family left un-entertained.
Whatever you take away from Karuizawa in shopping bags or
memories on a digital camera, one thing no one can fail to agree
with is the effort the locals have put into making this place try
just a little bit harder than other similar sized tourist destinations
in Japan — especially for the kids.