By Peter Sidell
Today, Karuizawa is one of Japan's most popular summer resort areas, situated at the foot of Mt. Asama. But amazingly, nobody realized how beautiful it was until around 130 years ago.
In 1885, an Anglican missionary, Alexander Croft Shaw (1846-1902), passed through Karizawa and found it to be a fine summer retreat. Soon he had a cottage built to enjoy the comfortable highland breeze; a wonderful escape from the hot, humid, Tokyo weather. His cottage was simple, yet functional. Its most noteworthy point was that it was not blocked from the street in any way. It was open and welcoming. Shaw tried to develop a good relationship with the locals. Shaw Memorial Chapel and Shaw Memorial House show this, and so way of building became the most common style in the town.
Shaw was the first foreigner to build a summer cottage in Karuizawa. He fell in love with the beautiful highlands and started to bring his family here from Tokyo in 1886. They enjoyed long summer vacations every year here from then on. He told everybody who would listen that Karuizawa was a beautiful town and that its mild climate extremely comfortable in summer. At first, foreign residents of Tokyo joined him. And then Japanese noble people, high-ranking politicians, and business executives came and began to spend their summers here, as well.
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Japan is a small island nation, but we have a huge number of surprising things to discover here. Many of these delights can be found when you step off the main street onto small side paths. I really enjoy studying about and researching various aspects of traditional Japanese culture, and then sharing this information with visitors to Japan. I hope you will enjoy it, too! ARTICLE INDEX & PHOTOS: An index of most of my Japan Travel articles can be found at the entry page of my blog, and my photos are shown here. 日本はとても小さな国ですが、大通りから一本小道に入ればたくさんの発見があります。日本人が積み重ねてきた歴史を学びながら、古い建物や庭を訪ね、物語の舞台となった景色を眺めて、皆様といっしょに日本文化の奥深さを探求していきたいと思います。