Karuizawa-machi in Nagano Prefecture is a popular summer destination because of its cooler weather. The town is considered as a highland resort known for skiing in winter, golf in summer, and shopping all year round. Though more popular in the summer season, Karuizawa is also a perfect autumn destination. If you love the explosion of colors in nature, Karuizawa boasts such beauty from mid-October to early November as the whole area is painted with orange, red, and yellow leaves. Surrounded by mountains, this little town truly offers a pleasant autumn experience. Here are the top autumn spots in Karuizawa!
Karuizawa Station is where you’ll disembark when you ride the bus or bullet train. The station is a key location going to the different spots in town.
Located near the station is the huge KARUIZAWA PRINCE SHOPPING PLAZA where you can shop ’til you drop because of the many different outlet shops. It also has many restaurants and cafes where you can chill and enjoy the beautiful autumn scenery.
The Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort is visible from the area, too, filled with orange, red, and brown autumn colors from October to November. Such a lovely sight to behold especially during the sunset time.
From Karuizawa Station, walk all the way to Kyu-Karuizawa (Old Karuizawa Street). Go directly to the main road or get lost in the small alleys and streets, either way, you’ll be treated to awesome autumn views!
The color illusion brought by the magenta, red, and orange maple trees is such a wonder to the eye that no camera can ever capture. There are many beautiful summer houses along the way, too, providing an even more beautiful backdrop for your pictures.
Go directly to the Kyu-Karuizawa Street or take a detour to the Kumoba Pond along the way.
Kumoba Pond is Karuizawa’s top autumn location for tourists as it perfectly shows a combination of fall colors being reflected in the clear water. Enjoy the 20-minute walk course, take pictures, or simply soak in all the beauty that nature has to offer. There is also a restaurant near the entrance of the pond where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while admiring nature’s gift.
From the pond, you can easily find your way back to the shopping street of Kyu-Karuizawa, the Ginza Dori. Just walk straight to the shopping street up to the end of the Kyu-Karuizawa road and you’ll see cafes, souvenir shops, dessert shops, and clothing stores.
At the end of the Ginza Dori road, you’ll find the wooden Karuizawa Shaw Memorial Church in the middle of a tree grove. Near here, you’ll find the trail going to Usui Pass.
The Usui Pass Observation Platform is a great place for mountain lovers! It can be reached by hiking the 30-to-40-minute trail which is worth the energy and sweat. The view at the top is breathtaking because you can clearly see the three famous mountains of Joshu (Mt. Haruna, Mt. Myogi, and Mt. Akagi), the Nikko mountain range, and the Kanto Plain. You can also see Mt. Yatsugatake, the Southern Alps, and Mt. Asama standing majestically on the right.
Karuizawa’s Usui Pass is unique as it is located on the border of both Nagano and Gunma Prefecture. Just taking in the beautiful nature surrounding you is a perfect way to spend your time.
If you are not up for a walk and have limited time, there is a red retro tourist bus in front of the Tourist Information Center that can take you all the way up to the Observation Platform. The drop-off point at the top is near the Kumano Kotai Shrine, a place where you can also find autumn colors and where you’ll find yourself in two different prefectures (Nagano and Gunma) at a time. The observation point is a four-minute walk from the shrine. The bus runs from summer to late fall, and the fare is 500 yen one-way or 800 yen two-way.
Two train stations away from Karuizawa Station lies the Naka-Karuizawa area (“naka” in Japanese means “inside”). Going there by bus from Kyu-Karuizawa and Karuizawa Station is also possible (ranging from 320 to 410 yen one-way). The bus will take you all the way to the Hoshino area where all the majestic autumn foliage is.
Go up to the Hotel Bleston Court entrance near the bus stop at the pavilion of Harunire Terrace. This hill is a gem as it not only houses the Hotel Bleston Court and the restaurant, No One’s Recipe, but also two beautiful churches known for weddings: the Karuizawa Kogen Church and the Stone Church.
The courtyard near the Karuizawa Kogen Church has Japanese larch and maple trees that are truly lovely during the fall season. There are benches where you can sit and take pictures, too!
Walk a bit more to the parking area and you’ll find the Stone Church whose unique architecture makes it worth visiting! It opens at 9:00 AM except on holidays and during wedding ceremonies.
Going back to the main road, head over to Harunire Terrace for some coffee at Maruyama Coffee. They have books for sale and if you like, you can sit outside near the Yukawa River for some quiet moments with nature. The babble of the river while sipping coffee and soaking in the cool autumn wind and the beautiful fall foliage is a delight.
You can also enjoy walking on the boardwalk near the river while looking for a nice place to eat lunch or dinner. Just note that the restaurants at Harunire Terrace are a bit pricey compared to average dining places.
Shiraito Falls is a well-known destination in Karuizawa. However, the autumn colors here is at its peak earlier than the rest of the town. If you still want to visit this special three-meter waterfalls, a bus going to the area is found at Bus Stop #2 at Karuizawa Station (710 yen for a one-way ride). The long and winding road going to the falls is breathtaking and mesmerizing (but not for those who easily get dizzy) as the mountain is filled with autumn foliage.
The easiest and fastest way to get to Karuizawa is by riding the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno Station for around 5,000 yen (one-way). It is also possible to ride a bus at the Seibu Ikebukuro Bus Station for 2,600 yen (one-way). You can buy your tickets on the day or book ahead online.
With all these gorgeous spots, you’ll never run out of things to do and sights to see when in Karuizawa. Take pleasure in exploring the town in all its autumn glory this season!