The sights of the summer resort of Karuizawa are a little spread out, from the shopping street in the north to museums such as the Hiroshi Senju Art Museum in the south. In the center is the town’s station, and just a few minutes away among the nearby cafes and restaurants is Café Conversa, a good place to have a light lunch or a peaceful coffee break.
There’s a distinct Mediterranean style here: the interior is light and airy, with plenty of plants, natural light and simple wooden furnishings, and soft classical music creates a restful atmosphere. There are also a few tables on a terrace to the side of the building, allowing you to enjoy street café culture while shaded from the bright sun.
The friendly staff seemed a bit surprised to have a lunch customer at 11:15am, but took it in their stride; I sat at one of the outdoor terrace tables so I could indulge in some people-watching, checking out the freshly arrived or late rising tourists as they walked or cycled up the main road towards Kyu-Karuizawa.
Of the ¥1100 lunch sets I chose the chicken and vegetable ‘Ethnic curry’, which arrived pretty promptly; it looked not unlike a Thai green curry, but was creamier and had a more robust taste, closer in flavor to a Nepali curry. My set also included a drink - I chose a glass of fresh apple juice, which was crisp and flavorful and balanced the curry nicely - and a small semolina dessert, light and sweet.
The menu comes in both Japanese and English, and includes among other main dishes a chicken and avocado sandwich, taco rice, and BLT, as well as changing daily specials. Drinks include the usual range of coffees, teas and sodas, and also yuzu tea and yuzu cider, made from the mellow but tangy citrus native to Japan; if you want something stronger there’s Kirin, Bass and the locally brewed ‘Wild Forest’ beer. For desserts there are specials such as the café’s original home-baked scones, panna cotta or, for a more Japanese experience, Shiratama-zensai, a sweet red bean soup with mochi riceballs.