Karuizawa's Mountain Onsen
After a week of work-fun and shopping-fun in Tokyo, we decided it was time to take a little breather and experience a little of the magic of the Japanese countryside. And what better way to do both than to head to Karuizawa, a magical tiny resort town in Nagano prefecture just a little over an hour on the shinkansen bullet train, whose beautiful mountains are blessed with natural hot springs.
We stayed at the beautiful Hoshinoya Resort, where the facilities and rooms are built around a serene river that literally come right up to the walls of the buildings, and a natural hot spring around which an indoor-outdoor onsen was built. Luckily for us, in our second lucky snowfall of the year (read about our first in Brugge) we got there right as a rare late April snow was beginning to fall, and a few hours later everything was white and covered in deep snow.
Though this kept us from hiking through the nearby bird sanctuary where guided bird and flying squirrel tours are offered (no one was expecting 20cm of snow!), it did make sitting in the absolutely incredible outdoor onsen, with snow falling on our heads and our bodies warm beneath the water, an absolutely amazing experience.
For dinner we went into town to eat at a delicious local soba restaurant, since the area is known for its buckwheat and soba noodles, and had some of the best soba we'd ever had. For breakfast we went to the hotel's restaurant and had a great traditional Japanese breakfast with grilled salmon, barracuda, and tofu hotpot.
We really couldn't believe our luck in finding the perfect way to spend our day off in Japan, and came back to Tokyo Monday morning rejuvenated and ready for one last day to shop till we drop.
Hoshino, Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun,
Tel: +81-(0)50-3786-0066 (8:00~21:00)