Could have gone by train but we like to go out n about in the car which also enables us to get around freely without waiting for public transport at the destination.
Here we are passing through the ETC which is the Electronic Toll Collection system which lets us pass through without stopping the car and manually handing over cash. We get billed at the end of the month for using the highways.
For the past 10 months or so, the government has been making it dead cheap to use the highways on certain days. Trips that would normally cost 10000 yen now cost a mere 1000 yen. When there is a public holiday on a Friday or Monday, many citizens would make use of the 1000 yen deal and get out n about for the long weekend which would cause longer tailbacks on the highway...
While the 1000 yen deal gets more people out n about which stimulates economic growth especially at tourist spots, the coach and shinkansen bullet trains have taken a hard hit as more people want to travel by car instead - understandable as folks only pay 1000 yen for a car filled with people.
Arrived at the Prince Hotel Karuizawa which is a ski resort and outlet mall all rolled into one. Arrived just in time for lunch.
If you are going by train, you would need to get off at Karuizawa Station.
Karuizawa is more recognized as more of a Summer retreat spot - thanks to a Canadian missionary called Alexander Croft Shaw who said that Karuizawa felt like back home in Toronto.
In 1888, Shaw set up a cottage house which then paved the way for Karuizawa to become an area filled with cottages for the Summer retreat.
Since becoming a Dollfie parent, I find myself always thinking about my daughters and whether something would fit them when I see miniature clothing.
I saw some pet clothes and immediately thought if they would fit on a Dollfie ^^;;;
Passing through a shrine. The statues with the red hats and bibs are Ojizousama. Ojizousama is a god who is said to look after the young. I bought a small one from a souvenir shop in Hiroshima when I was a visitor to Japan many moons ago. I put it on my window sill when I got back to London and used to put a small cup of water in front of Ojizousama which I changed every day.
I clearly remember rushing for school one day but I forgot to change the water in his cup - dropped everything at the door and ran up to my room to change the water for him. Could it be that he helped me get to Japan?
One of our life goals is to get another house somewhere outside of Tokyo. Many of our friends in Tokyo have been buying land and houses in the Karuizawa area.
Land area is usually measured in a unit called tsubo which is about 3.31 square meters. You can use Japanese Google to do a search like 2坪 which will then convert that into square meters for you.
Here we see that a patch of 85 tsubo (280 square meters) is going for 4800000 yen, while the most land one can get from this bunch is 940 tsubo (3107 square meters!) for 54000000 yen - less than what our house cost ^^; Our current house in central Tokyo is about 20 tsubo which is 66 square meters - good thing we have three floors.
We stayed at the Karuizawa West Prince Hotel. I would only recommend this place if you are here to do some skiing - you can walk to the slopes which are nearby.
If you are not indulging in any snow activities however, the Prince Hotel would probably bore you - quite a bog standard hotel with no hot springs. They do have hot springs nearby but charge something in the region of 2000 yen just to use them - and you need to take a shuttle bus to get there.
We are now in the Gunma prefecture at Onioshidashi which is a popular tourist spot. There are large areas of lava which was erupted from Mount Asama back in 1783.
I love the name of the park - if you translate the kanji of the park into English you get "A Devil which has pushed (it) out" which I presume refers to the lava.
The place was actually closed at this time of year - not a soul in sight. Was surreal being up there without a single sound - no wind, no birds, nothing. "Solitude" is the word that comes to mind to describe the experience.
This observation deck reminded me somehow of the Playstation 1 Metal Gear Solid.
I remember buying the game on a trip to Japan and then buying a huge TV when I got back to London to play the game.
Ended up selling the TV only a few weeks after I got it as I got the job in Japan...