In this post we shall explore the Karuizawa area on the Nagano shinkansen line beyond Takasaki. Unfortunately, since the start of the Hokuriku shinkansen in 2015, reserved seats tend to sell out quickly during holidays due to the continuing Kanazawa boom.
Karuizawa (around 70 minutes from Tokyo station) has 3 things going for it:
1) It sits at the foot of the active volcano Mt Asamayama (current status: smoking)
2) John Lennon used to live there for a while with Yoko Ono
3) Situated at 940m above sea level, it’s a pleasant place to visit in the summer months.
Below are some hiking suggestions (for Mt Asama see the post on Sakudaira):
- Karuizawa station to Yokokawa station (Dentetsu main line, return via Takasaki)
This is a great hike on the old Nakasendo route connecting Takasaki to Karuizawa with great views of Mt Asama, Mt Myougi and the Nishijoshuu area. There is an abandoned station and railway line at the end and monkeys can be seen in the warmer months.
- Mt Hanamagari 鼻曲山 1655m, Kanto 100 famous mountain
Access is by bus but you can walk back to the station. This hike is on the ridge opposite Mt Asama and has good views of Mt Asamakakushi (North) and the Kirizumi onsen area (East). It was a rather dull walk through the bare forest in the winter, but should be nicer when greener.
- Mt Asamakakushi 浅間隠山 1756m, 200 famous mountain (climbed in 2017)
It’s a long walk along a road from the closest bus stop in Kita-Karuizawa unless you can hitch a ride. There is an option to descend to Asamakakushi onsen and ride a bus to Nakanojo on the Agatsuma line (return via Takasaki) but buses only run on weekdays.
- Mt Happu ハ風山 1315m to Mt Arafune 荒船山 1423m, 200 famous mountain
This is a long hike for fast walkers connecting Minami-Karuizawa with the Nishijoushuu area. Access is by bus and ends at Arafune onsen (last bus to bus to Shimonita is at 15:46). The hike can be shortened by descending from the farm near Monomiyama 物見山 1375m.
- Kirizumi onsen area 霧積温泉
I haven’t explored this area yet since access is only via car or taxi but it seems to have some interesting and exciting mountains.
- Mt Kusatsu-Shirane 草津白根山 2171m, a hundred famous mountain
There is a bus from Karuizawa station which (with one change) will take you all the way to the pass below Mt Shirane (2010m) and beyond to Shiga kogen 志賀高原. I haven’t done this yet with the pass. Mt Shirane is currently active and some parts may be off-limits.
- Shiroito waterfall 白糸の滝
The waterfall is less than 30 minutes away by bus and you can walk back to the station in around 4 hours through beautiful woods. This is a relatively easy hike and beautiful in the autumn months.