Saturday, August 19, 2006

Day trip to Karuizawa

We went on a day trip to Karuizawa (軽井沢) near Nagano (長野). It turned out to be a BIG success!!

Easy Transportation
It took only an hour to go to Karuizawa by Shinkensen. If you buy the reserved seat tickets, you can pretty much just go to the station causally 5, 10 mintues before your train leaves. It's a little bit expensive though. One way reserved tix costs about $50 US dollars. Mike thinks it's absolutely worth it to pay that to be "instantly" out of central Tokyo in a very comfortable pace. The other option will be to buy the cheaper non-reserved tix and go to the station VERY early and line up to try to get a seat.

I like to look up info about where to go/travel, and what to see in those new places. Mike is more the other opposite - he claims that he likes to "explore" - without planning. ;)
I usually like printing out maps and bus schedule for the places that we want to see and be prepared; however, with the few travel experience so far, I found out that that's almost unnecessary in Japan. The tourist information is usually extremely helpful here. Usually what you need to do ONLY is to have in mind the things/places that you want to see. Then you walk up to these toursit info counters, tell the people there what you have in mind and let them plan out the day for you and give you all the necessary schedule/map information. Isn't that awesome?!?! Those so-called tourist info centers in the US are usually pretty useless. That's why we were so impressed with the great services here in Japan!!

That's exactly what we did. Easy, fast, no-pain... =)

Shiraito Water Fall (白糸の滝)

The lady at the counter suggested us to go see the Shraito Waterfall first. That turned out to be a brilliant suggestion - bus ride was about 25 mintues and took us straight to the waterfall.

There were already many people there, families, kids, couples, etc.

Apparently, this is one of the "must-see" in Karuizawa. The name of this water fall means "White Strings". It is probably the best description of the waterfall.

The fall drops about 3 meters and is 70 meters wide - so pretty and amazing that almost makes me wonder - is this really nature?! (yes, confirmed that it IS!!)

I read somewhere that say Karuizawa is a tiny town; however, the population doubles during summer, since everyone likes to go there to escape the unbearable heat in Tokyo. And you know what, it's really much COOLER in Karuizawa, about at least 6, 7 degree difference (in celicius).

Mike was so afraid that I'd jump on this pseudo wooden bridge. (Since I tend to have a tendency to jump on every bridge that looks dangerous!!) He was afraid that he'll have to yell "tasukete" ("help" in Japanese) if I fall into the water or break my head or something!! ^___^

Question: Find the two biggest things on Mike in this picture.
Answer: "Eye bags"

What really happened was that he overslept in the morning. (We were almost late for the shinkensen train.) You can probably tell he needs more sleep from his "bags" !! Poor Mike... Z_Z

Usui (碓氷) Bypass/Hiking Trail

Next stop in our trip is to hike up the Usui Bypass. The hike was an easy comfortable hike, took about an hour and a half to hike up and a half hour for us to run down the mountain =)
Gosh... I miss hiking!!!

Supposedly at the top of the trail, there is a scenic point that you can see the pretty view of Mount Asama (浅間山) from across, but when we got there....

Very unforunately, it was SOOoooo foggy that day on top of the Usui Bypass. And we could only see this.... (i.e. nothing)

Just as a comparison - this is what we are supposed to see (if the fog was NOT there!!!) That mountain is Mt Asama. Just FYI - the Shinkensen to go to Nagano is named after this mountain - Train Asama (浅間).

We were a little disappointed about the fog, but overall the trail itself was very good - green, shady, good attitude level, and all Japanese people who passed by said "こにちは" (Konichiwa) friendly to us!!

So afterall, we enjoyed the hike a lot, and nonetheless, it's our FIRST hike in Japan!! (hehe... and we don't need to drive two hours of windy roads just to go to a place to hike!!!) AWESOME AWESOME!!

Kumoba Lake (雲場湖)

Japanese people call this lake the "Swan Lake". We didn't see any Swan that day, but there were few small ducks and fish, and a surprisingly small amount of mosquitos (which you would expect to see A LOT for a smiliar lake in the States or in Hong Kong).

Hehe... Mike, are you trying to hide your "eye bags"? =P

The lake is heavily surrounded by green leaves/trees during summer. I heard that in Autumn all the leaves will turn into red/yellow/orange colors. Must be a very pretty scene!!

Random things and observation...

Parts of Karuizawa is a very westernized town. You can easily see big, brightly-led restaurant with French style exterior seats (like this one) along the street.

Our train back to Tokyo was at 8pm, so we grabbed dinner before broading the Shinkensen. On our way to find a restaurant near the station, we saw this very cute little cat. Mike tried to take a picture of it and it almost ran up and jumped to him.

Looking Forward...

We have decided to go back to Karuizawa either in Autumn (to see the pretty red, yellow falling leaves at Kumoba Lake) or in Winter (to see the annual International Ice Festival) !!



We love this little resort town!!

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