Tokyo Rail Days Trip | Day 1 : Karuizawa, Nagano
DAY ONE. As I shared on my General Itinerary yesterday, we started our Tokyo Rail Days Trip by visiting Hoshino Resort Area at Karuizawa, Nagano. A little introduction for this beautiful place:
KAIRUZAWA (軽井沢町 Karuizawa-machi) is a town in Kitasaku District, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Karuizawa is very popular as an easily accessible resort, lying only an hour and 10 minutes from Tokyo on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. Boasting historically beautiful architecture such as the Karuizawa Kogen Church and the Kyu-Mikasa Hotel as well as lovely natural attractions like Kumoba Pond, this town offers many sightseeing opportunities. Golfing, horseback riding, and skiing are also popular outdoor pursuits.
In winter, Karuizawa is known for its winter forest and mountain slopes, where people can enjoy great food and onsen in the middle of snow-covered surroundings. I'm SUPER excited for this visit because this will be my very first snow-seeing experience ever! Travelling in Winter has been quite a trouble for someone who's extremely sensitive to cold weather like me, but with preparation and enough layers of clothes (thanks to the airplane's excessive baggage allowance) I believe I can survive.
(Note: Apparently UNIQLO has the very useful product called HEATTECH. A thin-cloth material that can keep you warm - not an advertorial message, I learned it from our guide). But that's for later! Now I will share the journey in details, below:
Since we stayed at the city - Tokyo Marunochi Metropolitan Hotel, to be precise - we have to take a train to Karuizawa. And of course we took JR East routes for the day! Our Shinkansen came on-time, as expected since Japan is known for its punctual habit. We sit in two rows, but our seat can be reversed, so we decided to sit face-to-face and enjoy intimate conversations along the way. It's a direct route that takes about one and half hour to get to Kairuzawa.
Mom and my sister are super ready for the snow!
Our train arrived. I wore about 5 layers underneath my coat. Fight!
Delicate tone. My kind of train!
Inside the Asama 515 Shinkansen. We have to look for our reserved seats.
All of us in our reversed seats, ready to depart.
Sneaking to the exit door when the train departed. The perfect spot for taking any melancholic-looking pictures :)
This is my second Shinkansen experience, but I always interested to see the toilet. This train got a massive one, I had to take pictures of it.
Warm closet with modern water system ("bide" and everything), child-friendly, and clean as always.
2. DESTINATION : HOSHINO RESORT AREA
Since Karuizawa is quite a "big" town, we have to choose a specific destination to go, to make the most of our given time there. So we decided to go to Hoshino Resort area, as suggested by our travel consultant back in Jakarta. Hoshino Resort is one of the most well-known destination in Karuizawa, especially for its hot spring (onsen) and mountanous nature. We took a bus to get there, it takes about 20 minutes from Karuizawa Station.
View from the bus : the quiet road and mountains.
This is the welcome sign to Hoshino Area. It's famous onsen as written on the board, is a must-try if you visit. Of course we can't take a picture inside, but it will be worth to try, soaking on hot tub while it's snowing outside the room.
The photographic road and forest - precious for the eyes to enjoy.
My boyfriend acted as our official photographer, of course.
♬ Into The Woods ♬
After strolling around the main entrance area, we had a lunch at Hoshino resort - Japanese menu! The restaurant serves some winter-specialties, so we tried to order different foods and exchanges our meals in the following. From soba to katsu, we got it all.
4. STROLL AROUND
Being full and happy kids after lunch, we continue our stroll around the Hoshino area. There's a big river that flows through the whole area, so sitting around and took pictures in the beautiful surrounding are quite a relaxing to do. Especially if you want to enjoy winter in a calm, soothing way.
5. Haruniré Terrace
Next to the restaurant, there is Harunire Terrace, a wooden-based multi-level stores surrounded by the forest and clear streams of Yu River. We met the woman who manage the area and she suggested some shops for us to visit. I really love the convenient surrounding, beautifully built to blend with the nature. The shops are decorated with snowflakes-garland and post-Christmas ornaments. Quickly reminds me of the so-called Winter Wonderland... In Japanese style!
Wooden grey stores. My kind of tone, again.
♬ Christmas is still around the corners... ♬
This cafe is just. The. Best. Ever. (More about it later)
There are many sitting areas around the river, if you fancy a hot tea or coffee.
And this two lovely women... ♥
A little trail heading to one of the shop inside the Terrace.
Mom used to work full-time, even in holidays, so we didn't get time to go for a trip together. Happy to finally get her on board with me after she resigned. She's just too wonderful. I love spending time with her.
More and more coffeeshops!
Sisters's bonding-time in the back part of the Terrace. It's a blurred picture, but I loved the moment.
Japanese style Victory-sign, obligatory for tourist!
If you want to buy Omiyage (souvenirs), there are more than one shops in Harunire Terrace where you can get local foods and nic-nacks. Here are some of them that we bought, based on the staff's recommendation.
Price-wise, it's not expensive at all. A package usually cost around ¥400-1200 (about $4-12). It's nice to have a combination of sweets and savory snacks together for a gift.
7. MARUYAMA COFFEE
As I've mentioned before, this cafe has stolen my heart since the first time I saw, so I though we have to drop by and get coffees here after shopping. It provides a little library, quiet and lovely, where customers can spend time to read from their numerous collections for free (only with purchasing F&B there). I knew I have to try!
Little library room inside the cafe. Everyone is just so quiet.
Maruyama Coffee also provides take-out coffee powder in packages.
This guy, and that soft window lights... ♥
Sneaking inside the library while nobody's around...
A cup of warm coffee for the soul.
And drink outside, actually, dare yourself.
8. KARUIZAWA PRINCE SHOPPING PLAZA OUTLETMALL
On our way back to Karuizawa Station, we drop by to Prince Shopping Plaza Outletmall - a shopping center just across the station, filled with many shops and stores of Japanese and International brands (includes luxury brands in the same class as those offered at the Gotemba outlets). In front of the entrance, there's a beautiful lake and garden, where we can sit and enjoy the scenery. We were a bit tired to go for another shopping, so we decided to walk around the lake and talk to each other. It's nice to catch up with my family, because I usually got very busy on weekdays and not being able to have long conversation (even though we live under one roof). One of the greates gift of travel, is to regain the emotional connections with your loved ones. And I'm glad we did, back there.
And when it's cold outside, you can come inside for some fresh, warm French bakery. Try to sit inside the cafe and see the beautiful surroundings.
Window lights are the best!
SUPERMOM. Suki da!
Personal opinion : Karuizawa is the right place to go with your loved ones - friends, family or lovers.
I recommend this for anyone who loves nature and enjoy forest more than beach (like me), especially if you come to Japan for business-related work and needs to sneak out from the stressful routines. It's serene and peaceful, very relaxing for holiday.
Travelling with family can be a fun experience to try. Going outside, in the nature, can be a wonderful adventure to do together. So glad to finally see snow for the first time in my life, and even more grateful to spent the trip with my most favorite person in the world. I hope you can also enjoy Japan in the future - very, very soon!
Destination : Hoshino Area, Karuizawa, Nagano
1. Depart from Tokyo Station by Train - Asama515 (10.24 AM) → Karuizawa Station (11.27 AM)
2. At Karuizawa Station, exit at the South Entrance, then we took the 11:40 Bus to Hoshino Area (20 minutes)
Total Trip Time : (approximately) 1,5 hours.
TIPS FOR FIRST-TIMER
If you want to visit Karuizawa efficiently, you can use Tokyo Rail Days Tour package - just like we did. It's easy and cheaper to travel around by using train, and it's not as difficult as what people think, so I recommend this to everyone who wants to experience the nature outside Tokyo on one-day trip. Some advantages of using Tokyo Rail Days:
- To refresh your mind about this trip, please read this post first: WHAT IS TOKYO RAIL DAYS?
- Tokyo Rail Days Tour is EASY TO GET. You can purchase from LOCAL TOUR AGENTS in your country (in Indonesia, most established Travel Agents have provided the tour, so you can ask them for the available tour packages (based on the season) and they will help you to plan and reserve the tickets.
- You can check the promotion and offered package on TOKYO RAIL DAYS WEBSITE (click on the link), then consult with your agents about how you can buy the packages. You can also try to make online itinerary and set the date/time/etc via the website. Payment can be done online or via tour agent. EASY TO BUY!
- The tour packages are cheaper and only available for non-Japanese tourist. So it's a very good deal for us. EASY TRY!
- Tokyo Rail Days is a flexible tour, so you can pick your own schedule and train time by yourself. No need to hire a private guide at all (that can cost A LOT).
- The train is clean, convenient and easy to get in. Most staff in the station also understand English, so there's no need to be worried about not getting helped. The train is also available in direct routes, so don't worry about changing trains. EASY GO!
And a little note about Japan....
- Japan is a highly safe, modern, tourist-friendly place for tourist. You don't have to worry about getting lost and everything. A little knowledge about Japanese Language will help, though (buy a Japanese Guide book!).
- For Moslem Tourist : Japan use porks in many of their cookings (and cakes too), so please be careful! I can eat anything so it's easy for me, but one of my Moslem friend got trouble finding Halal foods. I think it's important. It's much safer to order food in more modern restaurants (with English menu), so you can tell which one contains pork.
- Japan is worth to visit. Literally. So plan your trip now!
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT TOKYO RAIL DAYS TOUR PACKAGE, SHOT ME AN EMAIL OR CLICK HERE!