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Chisun Inn Karuizawa

Decent comfort at a decent price

Chisun Inns are a nationwide chain of budget hotels, designed to provide reasonable comfort at good value. They're generally aimed at business travelers or people driving across country, but can also often be found in cities or near interesting out-of-the-way sights.

Chisun Inn Karuizawa is typical of the chain. The location is a little out of the way, on a bypass to the south of the town; it's not very near the attractions, but from May to November the hotel offers bicycle rental, which is a very pleasant way to explore the town. There's nowhere nearby to buy groceries, but there are vending machines for soft drinks, beer and instant noodles, and for an extra five hundred yen there's a buffet breakfast, providing a mix of Japanese and western food. There's rice, fish, salad and miso soup, but also eggs, sausages, cereal and toast, along with coffee, tea and juice; if you're not in a hurry it's a nice way to start the day. There's also a useful rack of leaflets and brochures near reception, which can give you ideas for what to see and do around the town.

My room was pretty boxy, but comfortable enough, with sufficient space to hang my clothes and put my bags down. The color scheme of warm earthtones and small touches like the little picture on the wall above the bed made the room feel cosier and less sterile than other business hotels I've stayed at. The bathroom was also compact, with a good powerful shower, and is also equipped with a line to hang your clothes to dry if you do your laundry in the hotel's washing machines.

The town boasts a number of attractions, notably art museums such as the Hiroshi Senju Museum and the Wakita Museum of Art. There's also plenty of shopping, from the up-market Prince Shopping Plaza to the unabashedly touristy Kyu-Karuizawa Shopping Street. Further afield there are a couple places of unique natural beauty, Shiraito Falls and Oni-oshi-dashi. At the rear of the hotel there's a small garden shielded from the bypass, which in warm weather is a nice place to relax after a day of sightseeing or shopping.

Booking is easy on the English website, and if you book far enough in advance there are real bargains to be had, with room prices as low as ¥4680 a night. It's not a luxurious place to stay, but for budget-conscious travelers or backpackers looking for a break from dorms, it's a good choice at a good price.

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