Capture Japan: Karuizawa

Karuizawa, Nagano

I know summer is creeping up on us already, so I wanted to post about a famous resort area in Japan that I recommend visiting! Karuizawa is a quaint city located in Nagano Prefecture (about 1hr away via Shinkansen). Many famous celebrities are known for frequenting the area… such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono as well as other Japanese celebrities. The luxury inns or ryokan in Karuizawa offer beautiful private villas for its upper class customers. Many of the buildings look distinctly European or Japanese, so the city has a very unique appeal and aesthetic.

Karuizawa is most popular in the summer due to its cool and breezy weather and lush greenery. In the 1900s, many wealthy merchants who owned ritzy boutiques in Ginza would set up second stores in Karuizawa in the summer to escape the scorching hot weather in Tokyo (hence the old shopping area in Karuizawa was named “Ginza” after its Tokyo counterpart). However, the newer area of Karuizawa, south of the station, is host to a brand new outlet shopping mall, which includes all the luxury European designers (Prada, Saint Laurent, Gucci, etc.). Aside from shopping, there are many hikes, golf courses, and other activities tourists can partake in!

While I wasn’t able to visit Karuizawa in the summer, I did get the chance to go this past February. During the winter, the city turns into a ski resort with relaxing hot springs or onsens! We ended up staying at one of the Prince Hotels (which is a Western Style Hotel). The hotel had a shuttle that would take us from the hotels (West, East, and Villa, The Prince, and Asama, I think) to the ski area, shopping mall, and station, so it was incredibly convenient. Although the winter scenery was beautiful, I would love to visit this city again during summer if I get the chance. Any chance to escape the summer heat!

Capture Japan: Uchiura

Uchiura Gulf, Shizuoka

Although I definitely consider myself a city girl, Japan never ceases to amaze me with the beauty of its nature! Last November I was lucky enough to travel to Uchiura, a small town in Shizuoka prefecture, for work and it was absolutely gorgeous. Although it took about 3-4 hours to reach the small town of Uchiura, riding along the coast of the Uchiura Gulf was an amazing site to see, especially at dusk! Across the gulf, we could see a stunning view of Mt. Fuji (unfortunately it was a little cloudy when I took the picture). The gulf is apparently one of the few places in Japan where you can view Mt. Fuji from across the water! The small town is mainly known for its fishing and its orange orchards, and i’s also famous from the anime, Love Live! I’ve never actually heard of this show, until I visited this town; however, it seems to be quite popular! I would definitely check it out if you’re ever in Shizuoka!

Capture Japan: Snow Monkey Park

Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, Yamanouchi

If you’re ever in Nagano, I would recommend visiting the Snow Monkey Park in Yamanouchi! It’s hidden away up in the beautiful mountains in Nagano prefecture. It’s about an hour from Nagano Station to Yudanaka Station by train. Yudanaka is known for it’s onsen or hot springs, so there are many cute Japanese inns scattered around the area. From Yudanaka Station, there is bus that will take you up to the Snow Monkey Park (about 15 minute ride). After that it’s about a 15-20 minute hike up the mountain the find the elusive hot springs full of adorable snow monkeys! Unfortunately, we weren’t able to hike up all the way up to the hot springs, but I was able to find one little monkey hanging around the base. Very adorable! …but be careful as these cute monkeys are quite strong and can be a little vicious if provoked. It was still definitely a great trip out there!

 

Capture Japan: Nagano Daisies

Daisies in Nagano

A short post from my short trip to Nagano. The yellow daisies by the side of the river were in full bloom, so I couldn’t resist snapping some pictures! It was so relaxing and the air was fresh and temperate up in the mountains. I would love to have stayed a little longer☆

Capture Tokyo: Ueno Park

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Lazy Day in Ueno Park

Ueno Park is probably one of my top 5 favorite parks in Tokyo. It has a beautiful lake and wooden path where people can relax and take leisurely walk. There are also pink and white paddle swan boats available, so you can take a romantic ride on across the lake. When I was in university, I heard a rumor that any couple who took a ride on the boats at Ueno would be doomed to break up… so please ride at your own risk, haha! The park is also famous for hanami or cherry-blossom viewing in the Spring, and it’s almost impossible to get a spot if you don’t go early in the day. Ueno Park also houses a small temple which occasionally hosts delicious food booths filled with roasted corn, takoyaki, yakisoba, and more! In any case, I would definitely recommend taking a nice stroll in Ueno Park if you have time ☆

Capture Tokyo: Hydrangea in Yotsuya

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Hydrangea or Ajisai in Yotsuya, Tokyo

As I was riding on the train back from my business trip today, I was lucky enough to see a beautiful field of hydrangea blooming on one side of the mountain! It was like a sea of pink and blue ♥︎. A couple years ago I actually learned from a friend that the soil pH will dictate the color of the most common Hydrangea species found in Japan. Acidic soil will turn the flowers blue while alkaline soil will change the flowers into a rosy deep pink. Anyway, I guess rainy season is about to begin in Tokyo☂!

(This picture was taken a few years ago back when I was studying at Sophia University)