- 3 min read

Kyu-Karuizawa Shopping Street

Jam and honey and sauce and art and clothes and more!

Karuizawa is very much a town of two halves. The south is dominated by the Prince Hotel and its golf courses, while most of the sights and shopping are to the north of the station. In particular, the shopping is concentrated on and around one street a couple of kilometers north of the station, where you'll be able to find everything you need to take home your memories of your trip.

Except for the occasional delivery truck, the street is completely pedestrianized, but it still gets pretty crowded with souvenir-hunters. Unsurprisingly, the majority of shops are geared to this market, with a heavy emphasis on local produce; there's no shortage of places to buy wines, liqueurs and jams produced from locally grown fruit, and there are a good number of shops selling honey in a mouth-watering range of textures and flavors.

One beekeeper is something of a local celebrity, and there are pictures outside his store of him wearing bees as a living, buzzing beard; he's often stationed in front of the shop, and his party trick is to pick up a bee with tweezers from a container in front of him and place it on his head, provoking alarmed squeals from watching tourists. During my walks up and down the street I sampled the dips, jams and honeys in a lot of the stores, and I could have probably had a full meal's worth if I'd been hungry (and cheap) enough.

Karuizawa is known also for its art museums, and along the street there are a number of stores selling prints and paintings with which to adorn your home. If you want to step into the frame yourself, there's a photography studio where you can dress up in period costume and have taken an authentically antique-looking picture. And there's more tourist fun to be had at the Illusion Museum with its variety of trick paintings.

On a street so devoted to extracting money from tourists it's a challenge to find a regular store, but they are there to be found: there's a shoe shop, some clothing stores, and a couple of stands selling fruit and vegetables. Then there are a couple that are so incongruous they seem to have been beamed in from a different city: a kebab van near the tourist information office, and a couple of shops selling Persian rugs, which can't be easy to transport home. At the other end of the scale, specialty stores selling Hello Kitty and Studio Ghibli goods hit every demographic going. And when you're done shopping, you can put down your bags and take the weight off your weary feet at one of the street's numerous cafes and restaurants.

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