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Cultural Hotspot: Karuizawa Resort Area (Nagano, Japan)

Cultural Hotspot: Karuizawa Resort Area (Nagano, Japan)
July 28, 2015 3monthEnglish

I`ve finally gotten around to posting this!

It`s been a busy couple of months for me due to business training schedules and a lot of students traveling abroad for long-term working assignments this coming summer. But now that I have some time to relax, it`s a good time to tell you about a very cool luxury resort area in Japan called… Karuizawa!

A lot of my students regularly mention vacationing trips to that area of Japan, especially during skiing season. But since I don`t ski and am normally quite busy (which is something I`m trying to fix at the moment) I had never made a trip to that spot. However, I happened to find myself in the area a few months ago on business, so I decided that it would be a good time to explore the area and see exactly what all of the fuss was about.

Oh Wonderland… Poor little Alice had no idea about that rabbit hole! As it turns out, there`s a lot more to the place than initially meets the eye. And in this blog post, I`m going to try to take my time in order to tell you about it. Rather than just being a place to for Tokyoites to  run off to, hang out, shop, play some golf and go skiing  for a few days during the Golden Week or Obon seasons, I found that Karuizawa not only has a very rich cultural background, but also played a very pivotal and important historical role in the development of modern Japan!

But we`ll get more into that later when I`ll tell you all about my friend Kevin!

What I need to do right now is give you cool and simple breakdown of the resort are and what to expect when you arrive there as a tourist.

Travel:

Karuizawa is located only 3 hours away from Tokyo by shuttle bus and 1 hour away by shinkansen (bullet train). This means that it is one of the cheapest and easiest luxury spots to reach outside of Tokyo. Some people working in Tokyo actually commute from Karuizawa by train every day just to get some peace and quiet in their daily lives. The train ride is only about $120 one way and you can get there for $60 by bus.

Day 1 – Karuizawa Station & My Hotel

Here are some shots from the APA Hotel that I stayed in during my brief visit to Karuizawa. Small, relatively cheap and conveniently located right next to Karuizawa Station`s North Exit. My rating for this hotel (on a scale of 1 – 5) would be a 2… There are a lot of reasons for this (including staff attitude and service), but I`ll explain some of the funnier, more interesting points in a video that I`ll be posting later! (^_~)v

Still though, not bad for a temporary visit, especially if you`re on business with a small group of coworkers and want to spend as little money as possible.

Click this link to view pictures of my hotel and the surrounding area!

Karuizawa Station – South Exit

Here are some pictures that I took of the Prince Hotel Shopping Mall area in Karuizawa, Nagano. The shopping mall is very popular for tourists in the area and is located on the South Side Exit of Karuizawa Station. There are literally hundreds of brand name outlet stores there, so you`ll never get tired of shopping! I`m not much of a shopper myself (although I did manage to pick up some good running shoes there once), but the scenery in the area was still very nice! (^_~)v Looooots of stores!

Click this link to view a LOT of pictures from this area!

Karuizawa Station @ Night!

For those of you who are curious, this is what Karuizawa Station looks like at night time around 8:00pm! If you`ll notice, everything is completely dark and nothing seems open; not even the restaurants? That`s because in Karuizawa, everything starts closing from 6:30 – 7:00pm. Keep this in mind if you are planning for a big night and a wholesome dinner at some gourmet restaurant out on the town later! You won`t find any near Karuizawa Station itself and may have to travel a ways by taxi. There are few convenience stores in the area as well. I almost starved to death because of this! Fortunately, there are a few places for you to hang out and enjoy your evening with a little food a drink to tide you over until the next morning! If you happen to be in the area at night, please stop off by Kevin`s Bar, located on the North Side of Karuizawa Station!

Click this link to view Karuizawa Station at Night!

Natural Scenery of Karuizawa

Click here to view the links of the natural scenery in Karuizawa!

 

The International School of Karuizawa!

My private tour of the most luxurious InternationalBoarding School in Japan! Welcome to ISAK!

I decided to check this school out during my trip to Nagano. I was fortunate enough to arrange an interview with the director of the school, who proudly gave me a tour of the grounds and facilities. I must say that it was amazing! The school is located in the nice wooded mountain area of Karuizawa (close to Naka-Karuizawa Station and not too far from Mt. Asama).

Here, the lucky students who are selected to attend, can find themselves surrounded by nature and focus on their studies without the daily distractions of busy city life. But that`s just the tip of the iceberg! The most amazing things about this school are not the location or spacey, grand designs of the student and teacher living quarters.

The most impressive things about this school are the staff, the students (who hail from all parts of the globe), the school culture and the learning methodology. ISAK is a free environment, where students not only study general academic subjects, but are also encouraged to think for themselves in order to some up with solutions to problems on a both a personal and global scale.

The instructors who teach here are only there to act as guides to the students in their journey from teens to responsible adults who will eventually grow up to lead our society. Because of this, the teachers rarely give students the answers to questions, but instead encourage students (who are generally from different parts of the world) to think and work collectively as a group in order to find solutions to problems. At ISAK, there are no “bad” or “dumb” ideas. The students are encouraged to brainstorm together, listen to each other, discuss with one another, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each idea or opinion; then decide on the best way to make things work.

That`s ISAK in a nutshell.

The purpose of the school is simply to provide a good, educational and comfortable environment for students of different races, religions and ethnic backgrounds to think together, study together while learning to freely communicate and cooperate with one another. Most of all, the students that I was lucky enough to meet and interview all seemed to be very happy with their learning environment, classmates, and their studies! That`s something you don`t see or hear of very often! I guess it also helps when your cafeteria is run by a world-famous private chef!

The school staff, under the direction of Mr. Roderick Jemison, are nice, friendly and really do care for the well-being of their students. In my honest opinion, schools like this are exactly what Japan needs in order to prepare the youths of this generation for dealing in the global economy and the world. If you are ever hanging out around Karuizawa and want to stop by the school, I highly recommend that you check it out. It will surely be a wonderful and eye-opening experience for you!

Click here to view pictures of this privately funded international boarding school in Karuizawa!

Summary:

Karuizawa is truly a great place to visit during the summer, spring, and fall seasons. While it`s also nice to fo skiing and look at a ton of snow during the winter time, the real beauty of this resort area shows through in the green mountains and flowing waterfalls of warmer days.

So if you ever need a quick and convenient getaway from Tokyo, Karuizawa is definitely a spot worth checking out!