Karuizawa is a famous destination for tourists, and has a lot of commercial and public attractions in the area. Shopping outlet is of course a top destination, but in addition to that, we have many museums, parks, onsen (hot spring), golf courses, sports facilities, etc. in the area.
For town residents, these facilities are very close not only in terms of their distance from their living environment but also in terms of their ease of use, thanks to preferential discount program specifically offered to the town residents.
Let me introduce some well known programs as follows. Some of these offers are applied to seasonal residents (owners of seasonal villas and cottages), too.
Tonbo no Yu (Hot Spring)
It is an onsen (hot spring) facility in Hoshino Resort. Its standard price for one time use for adult is ¥1,300 for weekday's use but it becomes ¥500 after town resident preferential discount is applied.
Kazakoshi Park (Sports facility)
It is a town operated sports facility. Curling arena is especially famous as one of the competition places of Nagano Olympic Games in 1998. Basically, town residents can enjoy 50%-off discount for whole the year for all its facilities.
Exercise Gym: ¥600 (One time use) to ¥300
Swimming Pool: ¥400 (One time use) to ¥200
Curling: ¥800 (One time use) to ¥400
Futsal: ¥400 (One hour use) to ¥200
Tennis Court: ¥4,500 (4 hours use) to ¥2,250
Ball Game Field (baseball or football): ¥26,000 (One day use) to ¥13,000
Gymnasium (Indoor ball games, Budo, etc.): ¥200 (One time use) to ¥100
Art Museum's Day
Karuizawa Museum of Art Council defines the 1st day of every month as the Art Museum's Day when admission fee is free at all the council member museums only for town residents. Following 9 museums are the members.
Sezon Museum of Modern Art
Collects and exhibits 20th century moderns art such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Anselm Kiefer, Francesco Clemente, Hisao Domoto, Keiji Usami, Shusaku Arakawa and
Literary Museum of Karuizawa
Exhibits manuscripts, personal collections etc. from Karuizawa origin writers such as Tatuo Hori, Saisei Muroo, Michizo Tachihara, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, and Yasunari Kawabata.
Tasaki Museum of Modern Art
Exhibits works by Hirosuke Tasaki.
Exhibits works by Raymond Peynet.
Karuizawa Picturebook Museum
Exhibits original pictures and painting of world famous picture books.
Wakita Museum of Art
Exhibits works by Kazu Wakita.
Le Vent Museum of Contemporary Art
Exhibits works by Isaku Nishimura and his fellows.
Karuizawa Erz Toy Museum
Exhibits Erzgebirge Toys from Ertz, Germany.
Hiroshi Senju Museum Karuizawa
Exhibits works by Hiroshi Senju.
Population of Karuizawa just exceeded 20,000 this year. Among them, about 250 are registered foreign residents (source: Karuizawa town administration 2014 statistics). It may look small in number, but their presence on international atmosphere of the town is significant. It should be a heritage since when a Canadian missionary found this area and later John Lennon and his family spent their summer days here.
International Association of Karuizawa (IAK) is a center of such international cultural exchange in the town. It was established in 2012 and provides many occasions for socializing, music, sports, arts etc. for its members to enjoy inter-culture communications. Visit its Facebook page to feel its atmosphere. Similar activities may be there in a city region like Tokyo, too, but what is unique in Karuizawa is, I think, that people here are very open and active in building friendship. It may be because we have relaxing and slow-life atmosphere of a resort town, but additionally because such entertainment facilities as good food, drink, sports, music, arts places, nature, and residences are located in this relatively small area with nice balance. It must not be something which you can experience in a city area.
Kevin's Bar is my another recommendation to feel international atmosphere in a casual manner. Kevin moved from Tokyo and opened his bar in front of the Karuizawa station in 2013. By then, night scene in Karuizawa station vicinity was not so lively but he then brought an open socialization place in this area with western style standing wine bar. People gather every night (even during winter) here to enjoy chatting and drinking.
Come and meet international people and culture, and enjoy the town.
As most Japanese people know, Nagano is the prefecture of longevity. Nagano was ranked #1 among Japan's 47 prefectures in 2010 at the average lifespan of 80.88 for male and 87.18 for female. National average then was 79.59 for male and 86.35 for female. Those for Karuizawa residents in the same survey is 81.6 for male and 87.0 for female. Interestingly, Karuizawa male lives longer than the Nagano prefecture average.
Researchers have been studying why Nagano citizens have such long lifespan. They concluded so far that the secret is in vegetable intake volume of people in this area. According to the survey by the Japanese government in 2012, Nagano male eats 378.1 grams of vegetable per day while national average is 295.6 grams. Nagano female eat 364.8 grams per day while national average is 280.2 grams. Of course, these numbers are ranked #1 among the 47 prefectures.
Actually, what amazed me after my move to the town was the wide variety of vegetables sold in a local supermarket. Nagano is famous as a major national production site for lettuce and mushroom. Amazingly, Nagano has more than 80% of domestic shipping share among all domestic lettuces in summer and autumn. Local people in Toshin (Eastern Nagano, including Karuizawa) are known to have a unique culture to cook the lettuce in variety of ways. Putting lettuce leafs in miso soup for example is one of unique local cooking recipes in this region.
Karuizawa Kirishita Yasai (vegetables grown under fog) are especially regarded as premier vegetables among those Nagano vegetables. It is named so because Karuizawa is known as a foggy highland area. Such branded vegetables include lettuce, cabbage, spinach, corn, etc. They are so popular not only by local residents but also by visitors that they tend to be sold out within an hour after a store opened. Though they are premier in terms of quality but not in terms of price. They are currently only sold at the JA Saku Asama certified shops in the area.
I personally feel I have became healthier since I moved from Tokyo. Though my body weight has not changed much, blood pressure and glucose level are improving every year since I started living here, and finally those values went well below the national average of my age this year. Of course, the vegetable intake volume is not the only cause of it, but I my meal menus have changed certainly. I may be able to live longer than average males in this country. Living in Nagano should be an option for vegetable lovers and people who seek to improve their health.
Asama highland area, including Karuizawa, is a Japanese mecca of public road motorsports. The area has several competition events every year.
In 2015, we had the following events in the area.
Event courses are located within 30 minutes to an hour drive from Karuizawa, so, many spectators go there from here. You will often see those competition cars running in the town before and after the events, too.
This year, I went to the Asama Hill Climb in May, and took a photo above. Public roads in the Asama highland area were closed for this event, and super cars (like Ferrari above) and formula cars (I should have taken a photo of them, but it was running too fast for an amateur photographer to do it.) were running just in front of spectators in a watching zone. It was really exciting experience.
Last year, a public road just in front of my then apartment was a part of competition courses of La Festa Mille Miglia. I remember I woke up in the morning by series of exhaust sounds from rally cars. It was really strange experience, but fun of course.
For motorsports lovers, Mt. Asama area is a special place since the 1st Asama Volcano Motorcycle Race was held in closed public roads in North (Kita) Karuizawa in 1955. Tradition of the public road motorsports has been inherited to the current generation as a pride in this area.
When I told my colleagues and friends that I moved to Karuizawa, I was very often asked by them, like "Oh, do you have Maki (wood) stove in your house?" or "Are you going to install a wood stove in your new house?" Actually then, I did not know that having the wood stove in a house was a kind of well known stereotype of Karuizawa people for Tokyo people. After having lived here for three years, I have noticed that the wood stove is a part of important culture of Karuizawa residents, especially winter villa and cottage owners.
I personally do not have it in my house unfortunately. However, when I saw wavy flame in a furnace in Karuizawa houses a couple of times, I felt unconsciously relaxed. Having the wood stove in a house would give you such experiences everyday in the severe winter time. It must be a luxurious moment.
Wood stove was reportedly introduced to the town by foreign residents. When I visited Asama Stove showroom in Kyu Karuizawa this week, there are some American made products being displayed. Other stores in town seem to sell Japanese made products as well as Italian, Norwegian, and Swedish made ones. I understood this area is still dominated by western cultures.
If you have some interests, I recommend to stop by some of those shops in town. I end my post with the store information of Asama Stove.