Home > Uncategorized > Two Days in Karuizawa

Two Days in Karuizawa

August 22nd, 2006

Sorry if I was late in getting the comments approved over the past few days, but I was in Karuizawa from mid-Sunday to late-afternoon Tuesday, and did not have Internet access in the interim. Either they don’t have Internet cafes in that resort town in Nagano, or nobody could point me to one. I had to get yesterday’s blog entry up remotely, and couldn’t really do much more (thanks to Shari for the help!).

Karuizawa was one of the locales for the ’98 Winter Olympics (remember the hot spring-enjoying monkeys?). It’s in Nagano prefecture, more of less in central Honshu, but is located closer to Tokyo than most of the district. The skiing in Winter and the moderate climate in summer bring a lot of tourists.

While there with a friend, we rented bicycles (a big thing in that town, apparently–tons of bike rental shops) and cycled around the city. We figured the whole course we took was about 25 km., a good deal on slight hills, so it was quite the workout. But there’s some lovely scenery there. The cool climate and abundance of tall trees makes the perfect setting for moss, and a large part of the city has a lush green carpet of the stuff–very pretty. Quite a few very nice summer homes up there, on large parcels of land for Japan.

There’s also a bit of European influence there; a lot of hotels and restaurants with British, French, and German themes (one taxi driver actually complained about it, saying he didn’t know what most of the names meant). Apparently, over the past 100 years, starting in the Meiji period, a lot of foreign visitors to Japan visited or even stayed for long periods in the city.

The hotel we stayed at (“La Colonia,” which I had to translate for the taxi driver) was a great last-minute booking–about $375 for a 3-day/2 night stay, including breakfast and dinner for two. That’s a lot cheaper than most places in the area, and the cooking was fantastic. If it wasn’t for the bike ride, I probably would have gained a few pounds. Each meal was four courses at least, and every dish was top-notch. In a Tokyo restaurant, I would have expectd to pay at least $150 for such a dinner for two, maybe more. So all in all, a good deal.

The weather could have been better, but we just ducked in between the rainstorms, until the very end, at least. There was good weather for the bike ride, but not so good for the morning and evening before and after. And just as we were enjoying a last-minute lunch before getting back on the bullet train to Tokyo, a heavy downpour started, as evidenced by these people running for cover from the park adjacent to the eatery (click for a larger view):

Our cafeteria was part of a large shopping mall just south of the station–with a 100- to 150-foot uncovered distance between the mall and the station. We waited as long as we could before risking missing our $50 reserved seats on the train, but the rain didn’t let up–so we rushed for the station, and got only partly soaked.

But all that notwithstanding, it was a fun trip. I usually don’t post photos of myself on the blog, but here are a few from the trip (for the most part, having fun with hats):

me partly soaked from running through the rain

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  1. ykw
    August 23rd, 2006 at 02:57 | #1

    What caused you to place a photo of yourself in your blog, after all this time (nice photos!) ?

  2. August 23rd, 2006 at 07:27 | #2

    Luis…just say no to cowboy hats…really…just set it down, step back and say “No!”

  3. Luis
    August 23rd, 2006 at 10:12 | #3

    YKW: this was not the first time, I’ve done it a few times before, like this post from three years ago. I’ve also posted from more recently, but I can’t remember when it was.

    Sean: It’s not a cowboy hat, more like a Central American casual hat or something. I don’t think cowboy hats are made of straw. I’m not usually one for hats, either, but am somewhat suggestible at times…

  4. August 23rd, 2006 at 11:29 | #4

    Living in the rural area of Missouri, yes, we have cowboy hats made of straw:-p Whatever you want to call it, don’t give in to peer pressure. Hats are bad mmkay? (my horrible Mr. Mackey impersonation from South Park)

  5. Andrew Milner
    December 23rd, 2006 at 16:47 | #5

    Your first impressions of Karuizawa are a real eye-opener to someone like me that actually lives here.
    – No Internet cafes, you know I’ve never noticed, but with some four PC at home, it’s not on the top of your priority list. Bit like public phones in Japan; everyone’s got a mobile.
    – The bike rental deal is interesting; 500-700 yen an hour, but just up the road at the hardware store you can actually buy one for under 7,000 yen. I always wondered if you could sell it on to a new arrival.
    – Sounds like you landed a pretty good accommodation package. Although $150 for dinner for two in Tokyo is a little out of my league. 1,000 yen a head and like it is more my mark: Treat um mean, keep um keen.
    – Ironic that the 14,000 odd “beso” in the area are largely unoccupied. Owners only use for four weeks of the year, max. So cultivate someone with a beso and they’ll be only too glad to let you use it. Accommodation’s a bit thin on the ground while there is an over-supply of restaurants. Did you lay your hands on that $15.00 White Horse 12-year whisky at Tsuruya Supermarket?
    – Don’t worry; taxi drivers aren’t famous for their international sophistication. Although to see then feeding the pigeons while waiting for a fare at the station is a bit of a mind-blower.
    – The town was founded my missionaries, so you do tend to get cornered by them, my first experience was at the Mayor’s party. “So what Church do you attend?” Fortunately I restrained myself from my normal irreverent reply, which would have included the phrase “Mediaeval Christian BS”, as that particular Mafia have a neck lock on social activity.
    – We got deer (saw one last night, antlers wider than the car), wild monkeys, bear, wild boar, raccoons, poisonous snakes, but it’s the missionaries you really have to watch out for.
    – The Bullet train is by far the best way to get out here from Tokyo on an August weekend. The main roads can be bumper to bumper, but you soon learn to use the minor roads.
    – The 199-shop mall really packs um in, even in December. We are getting down to -5ºC at night, but next month -18ºC is possible. Malaysia here I come. So factor in wind chill, and you are talking Brass Monkey weather.
    – Didn’t mention the volcano. I’ve always felt the term “active volcano” is one that is bandied about a little too freely. Although that said, as I look passed my Mac it is discharging rather more heavily than of late. Waiting for that Mt. St. Helen’s moment. WTF was th….

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