Karuizawa, Nagano

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Typical scenery of Karuizawa
Typical scenery of Karuizawa
Flag of Karuizawa
Official logo of Karuizawa
Location of Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture
Location of Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture
Karuizawa is located in Japan
Coordinates: 36°20′55″N 138°35′49″E / 36.34861°N 138.59694°E / 36.34861; 138.59694Coordinates: 36°20′55″N 138°35′49″E / 36.34861°N 138.59694°E / 36.34861; 138.59694
RegionChūbu (Kōshin'etsu)
 • Total156.03 km2 (60.24 sq mi)
 (October 2016)
 • Total20,323
 • Density130/km2 (340/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+9 (Japan Standard Time)
Phone number0267-45-8111
Address2381-1 Nagakura, Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun, Nagano-ken 389-0192
WebsiteOfficial website
BirdBrown-headed thrush
FlowerSakurasō (Primula sieboldii)
TreeMagnolia kobus

Karuizawa (軽井沢町, Karuizawa-machi) is a resort town located in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. As of 1 October 2016, the town had an estimated population of 20,323 in 9897 households,[1] and a population density of 130 persons per km². The total area of the town is 156.03 km2 (60.24 sq mi). Karuizawa is one of the oldest and most famous summer resorts in Japan, visited by many people from different countries since the 19th century.[2]


Mt.Asama seen from Karuizawa

Karuizawa is located in eastern Nagano Prefecture, bordered by Gunma Prefecture to the north, east and south. The town is located on an elevated plain at the foot of Mount Asama, one of Japan's most active volcanoes. The mountain is classed as a Category A active volcano. A small eruption was detected in June 2015, a more significant eruption spewing hot rocks and a plume of ash occurred in February 2015. Mt. Asama's most destructive eruption in recent recorded history took place in 1783, when over 1,000 were killed. The volcano is actively monitored by scientists and climbing close to the summit is prohibited.[3]

  • Usui Pass
  • Highest elevation: 2,568 m (8,425 ft) (Top of Mount Asama)
  • Lowest elevation: 798.7 m (2,620.4 ft)

Surrounding municipalities[edit]


Per Japanese census data,[4] the population of Karuizawa has been increasing over the past 50 years.

Historical population
1940 8,746—    
1950 13,676+56.4%
1960 13,299−2.8%
1970 13,373+0.6%
1980 14,195+6.1%
1990 15,464+8.9%
2000 16,181+4.6%
2010 19,023+17.6%


Karuizawa has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dwb) with warm summers and cold winters. The average annual temperature in Karuizawa is 8.6 °C (47.5 °F). The average annual rainfall is 1,246.2 mm (49.06 in) with September as the wettest month. The temperatures are highest on average in August, at around 20.8 °C (69.4 °F), and lowest in January, at around −3.3 °C (26.1 °F).[5] Precipitation is much heavier in the summer than in the winter.

Climate data for Karuizawa (1991−2020 normals, extremes 1925−present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 16.1
Average high °C (°F) 2.3
Daily mean °C (°F) −3.3
Average low °C (°F) −8.2
Record low °C (°F) −20.3
Average precipitation mm (inches) 36.8
Average snowfall cm (inches) 44
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 5.2 5.3 8.4 8.9 9.9 12.6 14.8 11.5 11.4 9.3 5.9 5.0 108.2
Average snowy days (≥ 1 cm) 9.2 8.7 6.1 0.8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.3 4.9 30
Average relative humidity (%) 76 74 72 70 75 85 87 87 89 87 80 78 80
Mean monthly sunshine hours 181.6 191.8 194.8 204.6 198.5 144.8 138.6 162.7 126.6 140.3 162.5 171.9 2,022
Source: Japan Meteorological Agency[6][5]


From Hiroshige's series Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaido (1834-1842), view 19 and station 18 at Karuisawa.
Alexander Croft Shaw
Karuizawa Union Church, before 1945
Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza (Main Street), 1930s
Karuizawa Foreigner’s Cemetery

The area of present-day Karuizawa was part of ancient Shinano Province, and developed as Karuisawa-shuku, a post station on the Nakasendō highway connecting Edo with Kyoto during the Edo period.

  • August 2, 1876: The hamlets of Kutsukake, Shiozawanitta, Karijuku, Narusawanitta, and Yui merged to form the village of Nagakura. The village of Hatsuji in Saku District absorbed the hamlet of Matorikaya.
  • January 14, 1879: Kitasaku District was created, and the town of Usuitoge, and the villages of Karuizawa, Nagakura, Oiwake were established with Kitasaku District.
  • 1886: Canadian Anglican missionary Rev. Alexander Croft Shaw and Tokyo Imperial University English professor James Main Dixon introduced Karuizawa as a summer resort.
  • April 1, 1889: With the establishment of the modern municipalities system, the town of Usuitoge, and the villages of Karuizawa, and the areas of the former villages of Kutsukake, Shiozawanitta, and Karijuku from the village of Nagakura merged to form the village of Higashinagakura in Kitasaku District, and the areas of the former villages of Narusawanitta and Yui in the village of Nagakura, and the villages of Hatsuji and Oiwake merged to form the village of Nishinagakura in Kitasaku District.
  • 1910s: Begins to attract the attention of other expatriates and Japanese.[7] Specially Germans congregate here, language professors and academics hold annual conferences.
  • August 1, 1923: The village of Higashinagakura gains town status to become the town of Karuizawa. (The pre-town areas before gaining the town status is known as Kyu-Karuizawa.)
  • May 8, 1942: The village of Nishinagakura is merged into Karuizawa
  • 1942-45: Site of an internment camp for enemy foreigners and diplomats during World War 2.
  • From 1943 relocation of an increasing number of Germans from Tokyo, which is suffering from US fire bombing. The Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers deported most German nationals in late 1947.
  • 1951: Selected as International Cultural and Tourism City.
  • February 1, 1957: Karuizawa absorbed Serizawa area from the former village of Goga, which was absorbed by the town of Miyota.
  • April 1, 1959: The Kajikazawa area of the former village of Oiwake was split off and merged with the town of Miyota.
  • 1964: 1964 Summer Olympics (Equestrian)
  • February 1972: Asama-Sanso incident; Police besiege communist militants holed up in holiday resort after mass killing and hostage taking.
  • October 1, 1997: The Nagano Shinkansen opens, serving Karuizawa.
  • 1998: 1998 Winter Olympics (Curling)
  • 2004: Mount Asama erupts.
  • 2016: The G7 Transport Ministers' Meeting
  • 2019: The G20 Energy and Environment Ministers' Meeting


Since one of the origins of the Seibu Group is in Karuizawa (see also Yasujiro Tsutsumi), Seibu is still developing big businesses in this town such as Prince Hotels.

Hoshino Resorts is headquartered in Karuizawa.[8]


Karuizawa has three public elementary school and one public middle school operated by the town government, and one public high school is operated by the Nagano Prefectural Board of Education. The UWC ISAK Japan international school is also located in the town.




International relations[edit]

Local attractions[edit]

Shaw Memorial Church
Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza
Kumoba Pond
Mikasa Street
Shiraito Falls

with its comparatively cool summer weather, its cold refreshing nights, its heavy air-clearing showers, its southern aspect, and its position close to some of the most picturesque mountain scenery of Japan, Karuizawa leaves little to be desired as a summer retreat.

— Cargill Gilston Knott, "Notes on the Summer Climate of Karuizawa", 1891[10]

while quite recently even Japanese gentlemen of high degree have begun to build houses and introduce their families. As in so many other cases, the world followed the lead of the missionaries. Foreigners are now the raison d’étre of Karuizawa, and no echo of Feudalism haunts the hills.

— Ernest Foxwell, "A Tale of Karuizawa", 1903[11]

Karuizawa, the most popular summer resort in the whole of the Far East […] .

— Arthur Lloyd, "Every-day Japan", 1909[12]

A Beautiful landscape at an elevation of 1,000 m (3,281 ft) and a cool summer climate similar to Europe, Karuizawa was developed as a European-style resort town by one Scottish-Canadian missionary in 1888, and since then many foreigners (Westerners) had visited from all over the country to escape the heat of summer and enjoy vacations. Therefore, a lot of Western culture remains in this town.[13][14] It is worth noting that, unlike many other hill stations, Karuizawa was actively open to the natives from the beginning. In fact, along with many foreigners, a lot of Japanese upper class, scholars and artists also had already built "Western-style" villas in this town by the early 20th century, and both communities had interacted well with each other through summer recreation activities and so on.[15] For these reasons, Karuizawa has a unique history and culture with a rich international flavor.

And now, this town has also become a popular year-round resort for mainly Japanese, offering many outdoor sports, hot springs and recreational activities. Convenient road and rail access from central Tokyo, has ensured Karuizawa's popularity as a location for second homes and resort hotels since the Meiji era.

The town is known for its historic shopping street known as "Ginza dōri" or "Kyū-dō" (Ginza Street, or the Old Road) and association with both Japanese royalty and visitors such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono.[16] As a side note, The Crown Prince Akihito met Michiko Shoda for the first time on a tennis court in Karuizawa in August 1957,[17] and John Lennon spent several summers in Karuizawa with his family in the late 1970s.[18]

Karuizawa hosted equestrian events in the 1964 Summer Olympics as well as curling in the 1998 Winter Olympics. It is the first city in the world to host both Summer and Winter Olympic events.[19]

Since 1997, Karuizawa has been accessible via the JR East Nagano Shinkansen. New high speed rail links has resulted in modest population growth and the development of large outlet style shopping malls.

In popular media[edit]

Karuizawa appeared in a part of the film.
The model of the mansion that appeared in the film is the villa in Karuizawa.
The story is based on the premise that Sherlock Holmes was in Karuizawa in the “missing years (1891-1894)”.

Notable residents[edit]

And now I am writing in the most lovely study in the world. Over my head the pine branches meet in arches of kindly green ; […].

— Mary Crawford Fraser, "A Diplomatist's Wife in Japan: Letters from Home to Home", 1899[20]

There followed a delightful few days in Karuizawa, our last for the summer. Douglas Fairbanks was a most acceptable guest, […].

— Joseph Grew, Private diary, 1932[21]

Summers in Karuizawa were not just a break in the year but seemed a whole lifetime in themselves. I have far more memories of the minutiae of life there than I do of the much longer periods of time spent in Tokyo.

— Edwin O. Reischauer, "My Life Between Japan and America", 1986[22]

Karuizawa is an old summer resort in Japan very much like the Hamptons except it’s in the mountains. There is a coffee house in a pine forest near Karuizawa. John & I fell in love with the place, and found ourselves going there almost every day with Sean.

— Yoko Ono, "THE LIGHTER", 2000[23][24]

They (Olivia’s parents) had two properties up in Karuizawa in the mountains for the summer. People fled Tokyo in the summer because the heat is quite extreme.

— Olivia de Havilland, Interview, 2006[25]

Summer residents[edit]

Evacuees of World War II[edit]


  1. ^ Karuizawa Town official statistics Archived 2019-03-31 at the Wayback Machine(in Japanese)
  2. ^ Shotenkenchiku-sha, HOTEL RESTAURANTS & BARS, 1995, p.15
  3. ^ Demetriou, Danielle (16 June 2015). "Mount Asama volcano erupts near Tokyo". The Telegraph.
  4. ^ "Karuizawa population statistics". Archived from the original on 2019-04-30. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  5. ^ a b 気象庁 / 平年値(年・月ごとの値). JMA. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  6. ^ 観測史上1~10位の値(年間を通じての値). JMA. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  7. ^ Tohoku: The Scotland of Japan, p. 181
  8. ^ "Company Overview of Hoshino Resort Co., Ltd. (Archive). Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved on September 22, 2013. "2148, oazanagakura karuizawa-machi Kitasaku, 389-0111 Japan"
  9. ^ a b "International Exchange". List of Affiliation Partners within Prefectures. Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR). Archived from the original on 2 January 2017. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  10. ^ Cargill Gilston Knott, “On the Summer Climate of Karuizawa”, Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, Vol. XIX, Ginza: Hakubunsha, 1891, p.574
  11. ^ Ernest Foxwell, A Tale of Karuizawa, The Living Age, Vol. 236, Boston : Living Age Company, 1903, p.107
  12. ^ Arthur Lloyd, Every-day Japan, London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne: Cassell and Company Limited, 1909, p.281
  13. ^ Edging Toward Japan: My Karuizawa Dreams, The Mainichi, February 12, 2022.
  14. ^ Resort town links East with West, The Japan Times, May 5, 2019.
  15. ^ Anne Shannon, Lana Okerlund, “Finding Japan: Early Canadian Encounters with Asia”, p.56, Heritage House, 2012.
  16. ^ Davis, Tony (8 May 2015). "Nakasendo walking trail leads to the heart of old Japan – and bear country". The Australian Financial Review. Archived from the original on 2 June 2016. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  17. ^ Former emperor, empress visit Karuizawa tennis court where they first met in 1957 The Japan Times, Aug 25, 2019.
  18. ^ William Horsley, Roger Buckley, “Nippon New Superpower: Japan Since 1945”, p.85, BBC Books, 1990.
  19. ^ The Olympian Volume 24”, p.29, United States Olympic Committee, 1998.
  20. ^ Mrs. Hugh Fraser, A Diplomatist's Wife in Japan: Letters from Home to Home, Vol. II, London: Hazell, Watson and Viney, 1899, p.53
  21. ^ A golfers' paradise,Asian Turfgrass Center.
  22. ^ Karuizawa, c. 1920. Archived 2021-04-11 at the Wayback MachineOld Tokyo.com
  23. ^ James Henke, “Lennon: His Life and Work”, p.11, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, 2000.
  24. ^ Yoko Ono (april 1, 2021), Twitter
  25. ^ Dame Olivia de Havilland, Academy of Achievement

External links[edit]