On my third day of using the JR East Pass, I decided to visit Karuizawa, located in Nagano. It is a very popular destination for shoppers as they have various outlets such as Nike, Timberland, Burberry & Armani. This area is very relaxing and it has a lot of local natural beauty. They have a lot of designer shops and also a surprising amount of designer dogs, with a large pet store within the main shopping court. There are various restaurants in the area and I would say the price range is average to high.
Empress Michiko met her husband, Akihito at the tennis court in Karuizawa and John Lennon thought highly of Karuizawa, visiting it various times with his family. It is the first city in the world that has hosted both the summer and winter Olympics.
Yagasaki Park is a 10-minute walk from Karuizawa station and has a beautiful lake in the middle. They also have a café here and a play garden for the children. This is the perfect place to unwind and relax when visiting the shopping centre. They also have a small shrine called Oyamazumi, which is located in the right-hand side corner of the park. Throughout the year, they have various festivals in this park, specifically a winter festival between December 22nd – 25th.
I believe it is quite popular to rent a cycle here, I imagine it would be very nice to explore the area more. The area has various hotels and it is considered a very pleasant place to get away from Tokyo and relax. Other main attractions in the local area include Kumoba Pond, Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Area, stone church and Usui observation platform. A lot of activities are available to do in the area and it is worth visiting for a day trip, or staying for a few days to unwind and relax.
Karuizawa station is only about an hour and fifteen minutes from Tokyo on the Hokuriku Shinkansen and they leave every half an hour. I would recommend this area if you are interested in shopping, fashion and beautiful scenery. This line is covered with the JR East pass which allows unlimited travel around the Eastern part of Japan. You can purchase a JR East Pass here on East Japan Rail.