The main shopping district in Karuizawa, famed throughout Japan as a beautiful, high-class refuge from the stifling heat of summer
Also known as Kyu-karu Ginza, Karuizawa Ginza is the general name for the main street in the Nagano Prefecture town of Karuizawa, which is Japan's leading summer resort. This area has prospered since time immemorial as a key transport node. Its importance increased further in the Edo period (1603-1868), and it flourished as a post town on the Nakasendo, one of the Five Routes linking the seat of the Shogunate with other parts of the country. Subsequently, during the Meiji period, the Canadian-born missionary Alexander Croft Shaw recommended the area to his friends, having been impressed by the beautiful natural environment there, and foreign nationals and prominent figures from the worlds of politics and finance flocked to build holiday homes there, as a refuge from the stifling heat of summer in the capital. Karuizawa Ginza started out as the district where many venerable stores from Tokyo and Yokohama established branches, in order to meet the needs of these incomers for food, clothing, and housing; even today, the townscape is lent an additional touch of character by historic Western-style buildings such as the old Mikasa Hotel, the Mampei Hotel, and St. Paul's Catholic Church, Karuizawa, which was designed by the legendary modern architect Antonin Raymond.
Moreover, Karuizawa Ginza is famous as the place where Emperor Akihito, then Crown Prince, often played tennis with Empress Michiko before their marriage. Even now, the town plays host to an endless stream of tourists throughout all four seasons, but especially in summer, with several million people visiting each year.
Address: Karuizawa, Karuizawa Town, Kitasaku-gun, Nagano
Phone: 0267-42-1775 (Karuizawa Ginza Stores Association)
Directions: About 20 minutes on foot from JR Karuizawa Station (about 1 hour from Tokyo Station by Nagano Shinkansen). (Car) About 25 minutes from Usui-Karuizawa Interchange on the Joshinetsu Expressway.