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The Prince Resort in Karuizawa is packed full of opportunities to stretch your legs and breath the fresh mountain air. From zip lining, to skiing, golfing, and tennis, if desired you could fill your entire vacation with activities. But all of these activities take place on the resort premises. While that is not a bad thing, it doesn’t hurt to get off of the hotel grounds and take a walk through the charming town that is Karuizawa. The Prince Resort offers rental bikes for just this reason, and provides guests with a map (in English or Japanese) of the surrounding areas complete with tourist sights to see, nearby hikes, and a convenient bike loop to see as much as possible.
As the threat of the incoming typhoon grew near, I decided to borrow a bike for a few hours and see the sights. I may not have stuck to the loop, but I certainly had a great time visiting the many things Karuizawa has to offer.
The Rental Bikes
Rental bikes are available from the rental shop located on the shuttle bus loop. The shop is easy to spot, especially if you take the shuttle bus to your hotel or cottage. Or if you are already at your hotel, you can find the rental shop directly behind the Cottage Reception building.
Bikes cost 1000 yen to rent for two hours.
What to See
There is so much to see in the area that I was unable to visit even a quarter of all the locations listed on the map, however the ones I did manage to get to before the rain set in provided for a lovely few hours of cycling through the city. I will only list the places I visited, but keep in mind there is a lot more, so if you have the opportunity, rent a bike, grab a map, and start exploring!
Kyu- Karuizawa Ginza
The first place and most central spot on the bike route was Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza street. Only about 5 – 10 minutes from the rental shop. Following the signs we parked our bikes in the designated area and took a stroll along the busy pedestrian street.
Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza was a really interesting combination of food shops, souvenirs shops, and truly random businesses selling items ranging from aromatherapy oils, to cowboy hats, to chopsticks. The street was bustling with visitors, and vendors and shop keepers greeted guests warmly at the entrances of their shops. I would have loved to peruse the shops, but the skies were getting darker and we had only made it to our first destination.
Saint Paul’s Catholic Church
Saint Paul’s Catholic Church is not quite as grand as it sounds. We found it tucked away behind Ginza street, and through a winding shopping area called Church Street. The modest wooden structure is a curious addition to the nearby attractions, but there seemed to be quite a lot of people stopping by to take a look. Visitors can wander inside the small church, and enjoy the traditional wooden pews and alter.
One of the furthest spots to see on the bike loop was the Kyu-Mikasa Hotel. The hotel resides about a 15 minute ride up one of the main streets. This section of the bike ride was by far my favorite. The road was wide, allowing for bikers to cycle on the road itself, and while the ride to the hotel was slightly uphill, going slow is preferable because of the beautiful scenery. The stone walls on either side of the road were covered with heavy bright green moss, and the surrounding trees stretched far above the pavement. The houses on this road were incredible as well, and deserve their own section in this article.
The Kyu-Mikasa Hotel is an authentic European style wood hotel which was originally built in 1906. The hotel served visitors from 1906 until 1970. Today it has been designated a National Important Cultural Property, and has been turned into a museum. The entrance fee is 400 yen.
Karuizawa Shaw Memorial Chapel
On the way back from Kyu-Mikasa Hotel, I took a slight detour to visit the Karuizawa Shaw Memorial Chapel. The small wooden building is hidden away along a back alley road, surrounded by beautiful greenery. The chapel was Karuizawa’s first church, built by Pastor A.C. Shaw. Behind the chapel you can find a reconstruction of Shaw’s villa home.
My final destination, just as the rain was starting to wet the roads, was Kumoba Pond. With the dull grey skies and the mist that had started to set in, the pond was not the most spectacular sight to see. But I was told that during the autumn months the surrounding trees change to vivid shades of oranges, reds, and yellows, which reflect in the calm surface of the water. There was a nice walking trail surrounding the entire pond, and I enjoyed stretching my legs.
After hitting my last destination, I decided to head back to the hotel. The rain was beginning to come down in earnest, but I managed to make it back before getting too soaked. I wish I could have seen more of the area, and tried some of the hikes listed on the map. But I leave that up to your capable hands (and feet). If you stay at the Karuizawa Prince Hotel, I highly recommend grabbing a map from the rental office, and either taking a long walk, or borrowing a bike for the day. It is a great way to see the city!
|Name||Hotel West “Kobushi” (Next to Karuizawa Prince Hotel Golf Course) / Hotel East bell desk|
|Address||1016-75 Karuizawa, Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun 389-0193, Nagano Prefecture|
|Access||[map]1016-75 Karuizawa, Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun 389-0193, Nagano Prefecture[/map]|
|Opening Hours||7:00 – 17:00|
|Price Range||¥1,000 for 2 hours|