Took the shinkansen from Tokyo to Karuizawa and will be staying a night over here before heading to Kusatsu onsen tomorrow!
Another Ekiben for breakfast. This time a 2 x half portion box to try more variety. (left – unagi , right – beef slices and minced beef)
Went to drop my luggage off at the hotel, Hotel Grand Vert Kyukaruizawa, my most expensive stay this trip (can consider staying here, near to station and convenience stall is just opposite) Afterwards, headed to my main aim for this area, Usui pass observation platform. Since no bus runs during winter season, cheapo me didn’t want to waste money on a taxi so i’m left with no choice but to hike up.
Walked pass the main shopping street, ginza, to reach the base for the start of my hike. From this point, there was 2 options. The icy and dangerous official hiking trail OR the relatively safe road for cars. Not much of a guess which i’m gonna choose .
Nearer to the base, there were few grand private properties (like the picture above) i’m guessing owned by the rich Japanese as their second home here.
Let me just say you have to be relatively fit to hike up the mountain without any long rest stops in between. It can get quite steep at certain areas and being quite the unfit person, 3/4 way up I was clearly tired after a 45min hike. Thank god for the nice views on the way up and the cooling weather helping a lot.
Thinking back, I remember someone telling me Japanese are quite open to hitch-hiking and at that point I certainly wouldn’t mind a car to help complete my hike up 😛 Soon after, I heard and saw a car driving up. Next thing I knew I was in the car with the couple inside hohoho! Talked with them with my extremely limited Japanese and their extremely limited english, found out they drove all the way from Tokyo and were in the midst of a heading to their next destination from Karuizawa and the place where I am heading was along the way (Lucky me!)
Thus the remaining 1/4 of my hike was completed by car.
Besides the observation point, another place I wanted to visit was the Kumano Kotai Shrine.
Entrance to Kumano Kotai Shrine
What is special about this shrine is that it lies on the border between Nagano and Gunma. In the picture above, Nachi Hall on the left lies in Nagano, Shingu Hall on the right lies in Gunma and the main hall in the center lies right on the border.
View from the top of the shrine
At the observation point, the mountain views is totally breath taking, totally no regret coming up here. Enjoy the pictures below!
Demarcation of the borders of Nagano and Gunma
Some Indian Nobel Prize winner. Was built to memorialize his 120th anniversary
Hiking back down took around 45 mins, was certainly much easier than going up.
A statue of Merlion at ginza street
Will never understand why Japanese are fascinated with the Merlion.
Studio Ghibli stall, too bad no pictures allowed inside
Miso simmered mackerel, a simple but delicious lunch. Never felt so relieved to be able to take a sit finally.
Karuizawa is a really nice place to relax and stay in. No wonder the people living in Nagano have the longest life expectancy in Japan. So if you wanna live longer, stats have proven you should stay here.
Otw to Kumoba-Ike Pond, or aka swan lake
You can walk around the whole Pond so you get to see different views of the pond from different angles. Only a handful of people around so it was quite peaceful.
Went back to my hotel afterwards to check in (had a picture of my room but not sure where it disappeared to?) and right after that went out again to the popular and tourist filled Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza to take a quick walk. Wanted to see if there were any cheap buys with suicide prices but I guess not. It was still relatively normal pricing.
Ski resort right beside the shopping plaza
Nighta – Night time skiing
Shabu Shabu Atago restaurant right beside my hotel
Hot sake for the cold weather
Okinawa Yanbaru Agoo~Buta Set
Traditional Copper Shabu Shabu pot with a chimney in the center
Dinner was satisfying, the fatty pork slices was really sweet and flavorful. Not everyday you see marbling in your pork.
Plump red juicy strawberry’s from the supermarket opposite my hotel
Why is Singapore not selling flavors like this?!?!?
To end the day, what better way than to have some ice cream in front of the fireplace in my hotel.