Escape from Tokyo in One Hour: The Prince Villa Karuizawa
Tokyo can get overwhelming, especially for those living in the city. The city and outer lying suburbs house over 13.6 million people, a fact that becomes all too clear during rush hour. Luckily for those of us living in the big city, there are a few great places to escape the humid summers and the throngs of well dressed commuters. If you are in desperate need of a getaway, or if you just want to find a place to recharge during your travels I highly recommend Karuizawa. The city lies only an hour away from Tokyo by Shinkansen and the Karuizawa Resort offers guests a unique chance to soak in some nature and see some sights, while still enjoying the benefits of a hotel and resort atmosphere. Guests can choose from a number of different locations to stay depending on guest size and budget, and find plenty of opportunities to enjoy the various activities offered in Karuizawa.
Getting to Karuizawa
Karuizawa is accessible by the Hokuriku Shinkansen. From Tokyo Station simply take the Hokuriku Shinkansen towards Kanazawa and get off at Karuizawa station. From the station, take the South Exit and walk for about 1 minute past the taxi waiting area, turn left at the first turn and a shuttle bus service is available beneath the covered awning. If you are unsure of where to go, stop by the information counter at the station, and they will provide a map. Shuttle buses run in a loop and make stops at The Prince Villa Karuizawa, Karuizawa Prince Hotel East, and Karuizawa Prince Hotel West, as well as the main shopping areas.
The Prince Villa Karuizawa
My first stop when visiting the Karuizawa Resort was The Prince Villa Karuizawa. A collection of beautiful cottage homes available for multi night visitors. The cottages come in three varieties, the Maisonette, a two story cottage with room for up to eight guests; The Maisonette with Spa; and the Terrace cottage, a single story cottage with room for up to six guests. The benefit of The Prince Villa Karuizawa is the ability to stay fully separated from other guests (each cottage comes equipped with a full kitchen, and in the case of the Maisonette Spa, an outdoor onsen bath!), while still having the opportunity to take advantage of the hotel style lodge and it’s dining area if desired. While visiting Karuizawa I had the opportunity to visit the Maisonette and try one of the unique experiences offered to guests at The Prince Villa Karuizawa, a private chef service!
The Center House
The Center House is located on the shuttle bus route and acts as the reception area and dining area for guests staying at The Prince Villa Karuizawa. The building offers guests a beautifully decorated interior lounge and dining room for those wishing to take advantage of the meals offered for guests.
The Maisonette Spa Cottages
The Maisonette style cottages are incredible. Two story cottages outfitted with three bedrooms and a large dining and living area. The Maisonette has its own outdoor picnic area and its own sprawling lawn. The cottage also boasts a jacuzzi tub and a private outdoor rotemburo, a single person outdoor bath with water piped in from the onsen nearby.
Each Maisonette also houses a room for luggage or ski gear to keep the cottages free of clutter.
The Terrace Cottages
The Terrace style cottages are very similar to The Maisonette. Slightly smaller and only a single story tall they can house up to six people at one time. The cottages still come equipped with the same amenities as The Maisonette, but are simply outfitted for less people and offer a slightly cozier atmosphere.
One of the highlights of both The Maisonette and The Terrace cottages is the ability to hire an in house chef. After choosing the type of meal you want, BBQ in the summer months, sushi, French cuisine, or something else from the varied selection, a chef will come directly to your cottage to set up and cook a delicious meal just for you and your group.
I had the opportunity to try the My Chef sushi meal and was impressed with the selection of fish, and the beautiful presentation of the meal itself. The opportunity to get up close and personal with a sushi chef was an experience I won’t forget, and one that is definitely worth trying for yourself! The chefs are incredibly knowledgeable, friendly, and are happy to take orders of your favorite types of sushi. It was very interesting to see them preparing the sushi directly in front of you.
All of the fish offered are seasonal, and depending on when you visit the Villa they are likely to change. This means that they are incredibly fresh, and incredibly delicious as well. The appetizers are seasonal as well and the decorative presentation of the meal is likely to change depending on the season you come. I highly recommend this unique experience if you have the opportunity.
The Prince Villa Grounds
The Karuizawa resort has a lot of activities in store for guests staying on the premises. Along with beautiful scenery and the multitude of hiking trails nearby, the resort also boasts a slope to door ski area with lifts strategically placed around the resort, the proximity of the ski area allows guests to ski directly to their own villa, or hotel, without taking off their gear in the process. During the summer months, the resort also features a zip line, and bicycle rentals, and a golf course, along with morning forest walks with a forest specialist. Located less than a five minute walk from the cottages are tennis courts, as well as a large onsen house which I am sure is very busy during the winter season. And finally the Karuizawa Prince grounds feature row upon row of high class outlet stores, for those looking to do a little shopping while they visit, or for anyone wanting to escape the weather to window browse.