UNLIMITED train rides for seven days on the Shinkansen with a JR Rail Pass. It may seem costly at USD252, but if you have to shell out the same amount for a round trip fare from Tokyo to Kyoto, opting for the seven-day pass is wiser. This will give you a good reason to see more of Japan.
Kyoto was a five-day trip for me. The cost of the JR Rail Pass was covered, but with two more days on my JR Rail Pass, where else can I go?
It has to be a day trip to an interesting destination not too far from Tokyo with sites easily explored.
Choosy? After days of exploring Kyoto on foot, I could stay in bed for days to recuperate.
John and Mitos, my hosts in Tokyo, suggested I head to Karuizawa near Nagano and in the Japanese Alps. "It's a resort town where the rich and famous have rest houses they can escape to during summer. It's an hour's trip via the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen."
My JR Rail Pass covered the trip, which cost 5,500 yen for a one-way trip or 11,00 yen round trip.
Hearing "alps" made me think twice. I'm not particularly fond of the cold weather but since it was the fall season, Karuizawa with its red and gold foliage would be very nice, said my hosts. I was in for a treat.
Early the next day I was at the Tokyo Station for the ride to the resort town on the eastern part of the Nagano Prefecture.
Located at the foot of Mt. Asama-yama, Karuizawa rests on a plateau 1,000 meters above sea level. Due to its cool climate, it became an international summer resort destination in Japan since the late 19th century.
The place is said to be a good spot to play golf, go horseback riding, ski during winter, but perhaps what draws most of the tourists to the place it the outlet mall. And guess what? The shopping area is right beside the train station. How convenient is that for the shopaholic?
Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza is huge! On its directory are luxury international labels and other popular brands selling streetwear, sportswear, kid's wear, home wares, etc.
However, shopping was not in my agenda. But it was good to take a peek at all the interesting stores and compare prices, and admire the pleasant surroundings of the mall.
I took an early lunch and took enjoy my food in the outdoor dining area (where I was very lucky not to have been attacked by a Doberman after I stepped on its foot. Or was I luckier not to have been stabbed by dagger looks of the pet owner? I didn't know which was worse).
The sun, cool breeze and greens of the garden and surrounding mountain proved to be the perfect remedy to the "alarming" incident.
I didn't want to get-up yet but the clock was ticking and I wanted to see a few more of attractions before I catch the last train to Tokyo.
More of Karuizawa next issue.
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