Birth of the summer resort Karuizawa
Today, Karuizawa is known as a summer resort and tourist town. Do you know how it came into being?
It is said that Karuizawa first became a summer resort in 1886 when Alexander Croft Shaw, a Canadian-born missionary, visited the area and marveled at its beautiful, clear nature and climate, recommending it to his family and friends. In 1888, he built a simple villa on Mt. Otsuka in old Karuizawa, and introduced Karuizawa as a good place for health and study to well-known people in Japan and abroad. In 1893, the first Japanese-owned villa was built in Karuizawa.
Karuizawa was given a new life as a summer resort by Mr. Shaw and his friends, and its development was further accelerated by the new Usui New Railway that opened in the same year. In the early days of Karuizawa as a summer resort, the majority of the residents were foreign missionaries and their families, and the town inevitably had a strong Christian flavor.
They took the initiative to make Karuizawa a bright, clean, and livable town forever, calling on residents to “be on time, keep promises, don’t tell lies, and simplify your lives (……)” and encouraging them to do so.
Through these practices, the noble spirit of “protecting good customs and building a clean environment” has become the basis of the “Karuizawa Charter,” which has carried through the glorious traditions and history of the summer resort of Karuizawa, and has sustained the city.
In addition to developing Karuizawa as an international summer resort, these pioneers taught local farmers how to cultivate highland vegetables (cabbage and Chinese cabbage) suited to the clear land. Because these cabbages and other vegetables were suited to the cool climate of the Asama Plateau, their production increased year by year, and the area was transformed from a small-scale farm producing millet, foxtail millet, and other grains to the highland vegetables that we know today. In particular, Karuizawa highland vegetables such as lettuce were greatly valued for their unique flavor and quality.
Development of Karuizawa as a summer resort
Karuizawa is now widely known for its fame as a summer resort.
The number of visitors continued to increase, and around 1897, rental villas and hotels began operating to accommodate them.
In the early Taisho era (1912-1926), land sales began by major capital firms such as Hakone Land (now Prince Hotel Co., Ltd.), Kajima Corporation, and Nozawagumi. The summer resort area, which had been the center of the old Karuizawa, was developed to the south and west, and especially after the booming economy after World War I, the number of Japanese vacationers began to outnumber that of foreigners.
As a result, the summer resort of Karuizawa was transformed from a simple and noble summer resort created by pioneering foreigners to a glamorous Japanese-style vacation spot, and a variety of stores were built to meet the demand of these Japanese vacationers. The old Karuizawa shopping street, the center of Karuizawa, became so crowded that it was called “Karuizawa Ginza. Around this time, golf courses, tennis courts, horseback riding facilities, and other sports facilities were built one after another, and the function of Karuizawa as a summer resort was almost completed in its present form.
Despite this remarkable transformation, however, there was a strong movement to maintain the spirit of the Karuizawa Charter, and the Karuizawa Summer Residence was established with the aim of making Karuizawa a sacred place in the world.
Karuizawa since postwar
There were also various difficult problems that rose up in Karuizawa.
After the war, Karuizawa’s hotels and luxury villas were confiscated as recreational facilities for the Occupation Forces, and for a time the area resembled a base. The town authorities and vacationers began a campaign to protect “clean Karuizawa,” and in 1951, the town pioneered the enactment of the “Prostitution Control Ordinance” in Japan. In the same year, the “International Friendship Culture and Tourism City Construction Law” was applied to Karuizawa in order to promote international friendship and cultural exchange to achieve the ideal of lasting world peace, and to improve cultural and tourist facilities to attract foreign visitors and contribute to Japan’s economic revival.
In 1953, the issue of the establishment of a training area for the U.S. military in Japan at Mt. Asama came up, and the town called on local residents and vacationers, and with the strong support of various organizations in the prefecture, campaigned against the training area. The Earthquake Research Institute of the University of Tokyo claimed that the site would interfere with their observations, and as a result of on-site investigations, the training site was cancelled due to the success of their campaign to “protect academics and nature.
In 1952, skating rinks were built in five locations in the town to attract not only summer vacationers but also winter tourists. Private rinks were also built in various locations, and the “Ginban” skating train and skating buses were put into operation, bringing the town into the limelight as a winter tourist destination. The city was the center of skating in the 1960s.
The rapid recovery and rapid growth of the Japanese economy led to the development of the living environment, and combined with the growing interest in leisure and the development of transportation systems such as private cars, company and school dormitories and guest houses were built alongside the use of villas for recreation, and the area became widely used by people who enjoyed health and recreation and sports (cycling, tennis, golf, etc.). The area is now widely used by people who enjoy sports (cycling, tennis, golf, etc.) as well as health and recreation.
While continuing to be a summer resort, it has also taken on a sports character, and has literary elements.
Karuizawa in recent years
With the catchphrases “Karuizawa with greenery, sunshine, and fresh air” and “Refreshing Karuizawa,” the summer in Karuizawa is a time to enjoy the beauty of the city.
As a “health resort” for all four seasons, the area is being developed as a tourist destination by improving the environment, cultural and sports facilities, and by holding tourist events.
Karuizawa, which also strives to protect nature, is located in a national/national park covering about half of its area. With the majestic appearance of Mt. Asama, the soft budding of kobushi (Japanese pines) and larch in spring, the singing of birds in the shade of trees in summer, the gold-colored mountains in autumn, the lovely squirrels, and the pure white snow-covered fir groves in winter, which remind one of northern Europe, Karuizawa is a place of seasonal beauty, The beauty of the four seasons, such as the ice on the trees, gives one a sense of the uniqueness of Karuizawa.
In order to continue to protect Karuizawa’s natural environment, the “Outline of Nature Conservation Measures” was established in 1972, setting forth standards for environmental conservation measures such as nature conservation, waste disposal, and water resource protection, as well as cultural asset protection measures.
Meanwhile, as part of the town’s efforts to improve its social infrastructure, public facilities such as the Hori Tatsuo Literature Memorial Museum, library, archives, Oiwajuku Folk Museum, hospital, central community center, senior citizen welfare center, social gymnasium, Kazakoshi Park grounds, botanical garden, park facilities, recreation forest (including campground), bird forest, nature trails, bike paths and road network, etc. were developed. The city was further refined as a “City of International Friendship, Culture, and Tourism.
Around 1975, the number of tennis courts within Karuizawa reached more than 1,000, a tennis and cycling boom emerged, and the enjoyment of sports became prominent.
In addition, the curling competitions were held in Karuizawa for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, making it the second summer and winter Olympic venue, following the hosting of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics general equestrian events.
With the construction of the Joshinetsu Expressway and the Nagano (Hokuriku) Shinkansen, Karuizawa is now more accessible from the Tokyo metropolitan area, and the number of people who make Karuizawa their home and vacationers who take weekend getaways in Karuizawa is increasing. The hotels, ryokan, minshuku, pensions, and other lodging facilities that cater to these visitors are also working to enhance their offerings to meet the needs of visitors.
As tourism events, “Wakaba Festival” in spring, “Show Festival” and “Shinano Oiwake Magouta Road Trip” in summer, “Momiji Festival” in autumn, and “Ice Festival” in winter have been held by the whole town since 1969, and the name of the festival was changed to “Karuizawa Winter Festival” for the 30th anniversary, and “White Christmas” and “Valentine The festival is centered around the illumination events of “White Christmas” and “Valentine’s Day.
Today, Karuizawa is not only a summer resort and sports destination, but also a tourist destination for various sightseeing events, as well as a literary stroll in honor of famous writers, poets, and painters, The annual number of visitors to the town is as high as 8 million.
In addition, recently, people have been holding wedding ceremonies in Karuizawa, and many tourists from abroad have been visiting Karuizawa to get close to nature and to participate in school excursions.
Karuizawa continues to be a town of lush greenery, befitting a “City of International Friendship, Culture, and Tourism,” and warmly welcomes visitors by preserving its world-class clean environment and customs.