Karuizawa is a mountain resort town located in Nagano Prefecture.
During the Edo period, Karuizawa was known as Karuizawa-Juku, a post-town along the former trade route Nakasendō.
The town wasn’t very famous until Alexander Croft Shaw, an Anglican missionary from Canada, discovered Karuizawa in 1886. He was looking for a place to escape the heat and humidity of Tokyo in the summer and was drawn to Karuizawa’s mild climate and beautiful scenery.
Since then, the town has become very popular among diplomats and missionaries who have built their homes there, giving it a strong European atmosphere.
How to get to Karuizawa from Tokyo
The easiest way to get to Karuizawa from Tokyo is by train. The Hokuriku Shinkansen takes just over an hour from Tokyo Station to Karuizawa Station.
A cheaper but longer option is to take the highway bus from Ikebukuro to reach Karuizawa in 3 hours.
Once you arrive in Karuizawa, you can get around by bus, taxi, or rental car. There is also a small network of community buses that operate in the town center.
Things to see in Karuizawa（軽井沢）
Karuizawa Hoshino Area（軽井沢星野エリア）
This area is home to several popular attractions, including the Tombo no yu – Onsen, the Harunire Terrace shopping complex, and the Kumoba Pond.
- Tombo no yu – Onsen（星野温泉 トンボの湯） opened in 1916 and is one of the most popular Onsens in Karuizawa. It is surrounded by forest and mountains and its water is known for its healing properties. It is a great place to relax and unwind.
- The Harunire Terrace shopping complex（ハルニレテラス） is a unique shopping experience. It features small shops and restaurants. There, you can buy various items, including souvenirs, handicrafts, and local produce.
- Kumoba Pond（雲場池）, also called “Swan Lake” because of the number of birds visible in the area, is surrounded by lush forest and is a popular spot for hiking, picnicking, and fishing. It is also a popular spot for photography.
HOSHINO RESORTS/Tombo no yu – Onsen Harunire Terrace ｜ Karuizawa Tourist Association KUMOBA POND: SWAN LAKE IN KARUIZAWA IN NAGANO, JAPAN
The Shiraito Waterfall (白糸の滝, Shiraito no Taki, meaning the waterfall of white threads) is located just outside Karuizawa and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. The waterfall is only 3 meters high but 70 meters wide and is surrounded by lush forest. It is gorgeous in the autumn when the leaves change color.
Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza（軽井沢・プリンスショッピングプラザ）
This large shopping center is home to various shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. The shopping center features everything from designer boutiques to casual shops and restaurants.
Old Karuizawa Ginza Street（軽井沢銀座商会）
This charming 750-meter street, also called Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza Street, is lined with traditional Japanese shops and restaurants. There, you can find souvenirs, handmade goods, and fashion items.
Old Karuizawa Ginza Street
Shaw Memorial Chapel（軽井沢ショー記念礼拝堂）
The Shaw Memorial Chapel (ショー記念礼拝堂, Shō Kinen Reihōdō) is a historical wooden structure built in 1895 by Alexander Croft Shaw and is the oldest church in Karuizawa. The chapel is a small, simple building, but it is significant for its historical and cultural value.
Karuizawa Kogen Church（軽井沢高原教会）
Karuizawa Kogen Church (軽井沢高原教会), built in 1921, is one of the most popular Christian churches in Karuizawa, and it is also a popular tourist destination due to its beautiful architecture and peaceful setting. Since 1965, weddings have been regularly held at this church.
Karuizawa Kogen Church│JapaTabi
Karuizawa Wild Bird Sanctuary（軽井沢野鳥の森）
If you’re a bird enthusiast, this sanctuary is a must-visit. It’s home to about 80 species of birds, and you can observe them from well-maintained trails and observation points.
Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort（軽井沢プリンスホテルスキー場）
During the winter, you can enjoy skiing and snowboarding at this resort. It’s perfect for both beginners and experienced snow sports enthusiasts.