Home to Mount Asama, gorgeous ski slopes and some of Japan’s most luxurious resorts, Karuizawa is a top destination for a quick retreat from the city and a popular choice for building or purchasing vacation homes. It stands out among other resort towns thanks to its mix of Eastern and Western architecture and cosmopolitan cuisine, with a surprising variety of styles and tastes despite being located deep into Honshu.
While it’s possible to take a day trip to Karuizawa by hopping on the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station, most travelers prefer to stay the night. Choosing among the numerous accommodation options can be intimidating, but for those who want to take it slow, make time for healing from the stresses of everyday troubles and get back into top mental and physical shape, the new Hotel Indigo Karuizawa, scheduled to open on February 17, 2022, is nothing short of an oasis. The hotel provides a villa-like experience without the exorbitant price tag.
Karuizawa has a long history of hospitality. In the second half of the 19th century, the town was officially established alongside neighboring municipalities as part of the Kitasaku District. In 1885, Canadian missionary Alexander Croft Shaw and Tokyo Imperial University (now known as University of Tokyo) Professor James Main Dixon introduced Karuizawa as a summer resort town.
What came in the following decades only further defined Karuizawa as a spiritual and cultural retreat. The town was a well-known destination for expatriates, especially fellow missionaries. Part of Karuizawa’s architectural landscape includes several beautiful churches, many of which you can still visit. Today, the mountain town still has a rare cultural landscape that resonates with international residents.
The establishment of the first Hoshinoya Resort in the area, in 1914, spurred many other accommodation chains to open hotels in Karuizawa. Hotel Indigo Karuizawa is one of the latest additions but makes a valiant effort to stay true to the Karuizawa spirit. The minimalist but nonetheless intricate architecture of the hotel was inspired by the cachet of the area, and the construction uses 80 percent Nagano-grown karamatsu trees. To preserve the surrounding fauna and flora, Hotel Indigo Karuizawa promises the use of biodegradable and naturally-derived products in every aspect of its operations.
Instead of encouraging guests to linger on hotel grounds, Hotel Indigo Karuizawa wants to share the town’s history and culture. Working in tandem with local businesses, farmers and artists, the hotel staff will be more than happy to recommend seasonal activities and must-see spots.
In winter, Karuizawa offers everything from ski slopes and curling to onsen and café hopping. Pop into some of the town’s coffee shops or spend a day enjoying the “Japow” of the nearby Karuizawa Snow Park. Of course, onsen is a must during the colder months. Be sure to hit the outdoor baths for the ultimate Nagano experience. Hotel Indigo Karuizawa has its very own outdoor bath filled with carbonated spring water.
In the summer, hit the trails and reconnect with nature or learn about local crafts. With plenty of hiking options, a healthy walk in the forest is just a few steps away. Alternatively, visit the Karuizawa Erz Toy Museum or one of the plethora of art galleries. Kyu-Karuizawa (Old Karuizawa) is also a must-visit when in town, with a lineup of mom-and-pop shops that have been tenants along the famous street for years, some decades. Also be on the lookout for local ceramics shops, art vendors and more.
One thing is for sure: No matter the season, Karuizawa promises beautiful views of nature. Japanese creative Hiroshi Senju, the country’s leading nihonga artist, was so in love with Karuizawa’s natural landscape that his very own museum was built in the town, designed by SANAA’s award-winning Ryue Nishizawa.
In addition to forest bathing, wind down at the end of the day in the comfort of your private room. Inspired by the vacation feel of Karuizawa, each room has been designed to give a home-away-from-home experience with the touch and flair of Karuizawa’s global fusion. Each room comes with distinctive decor inspired by Karuizawa’s neighborhood. Be sure to spot the woodwork art piece made by local mokuhanga (woodblock) artist Terry McKenna.
Every room comes with a private balcony, bath and shower room as well as all the usual amenities. Soak in a tub with a view of the surrounding forest or head to the onsen for a dip in mineral-rich waters sourced from the nearby mountains. If you’re in the mood to stay in, consider hanging out in the courtyard. In the winter, a roaring fire will keep guests comfortably warm even on the coldest days.
For extra pampering, take your pick out of several wellness courses at The Spa by Harnn, where every treatment is inspired by the natural resources of Karuizawa. Many of the courses at Hotel Indigo Karuizawa can’t be found anywhere else. Guests also have access to an on-site fitness center equipped for light workouts including machines by leading exercise brand Nohrd, which can be a great addition to a golf or hiking getaway.
The hotel also has a restaurant, Kagaribi, where you can sample local produce and indulge in authentic Italian food made with carefully selected ingredients sourced from the area. Pop by for a quick breakfast or lunch before heading out to explore Karuizawa.
Hotel Indigo Karuizawa
18-39 Yashikizoe, Nagakura, Karuizawamachi, Kitasaku District, Nagano Prefecture