- Education & Catastrophe
- Karuizawa - The Hamptons of Japan
Karuizawa - The Hamptons of Japan
Education & Catastrophe 66
Rising Field Karuizawa
Hey y’all! This is John.
This newsletter is about human flourishing. Ostensibly it’s about better parenting and fixing education, but ultimately what I really care about is helping young people flourish.
The last couple of issues, I wrote about places to go and things to do in Tokyo and Chiba for families with young children. This week let’s visit Karuizawa, the Hamptons of Japan, 70 minutes from Tokyo on the Shinkansen. This ancient resort town high up in the mountains is one of my favourite places in Japan. Somewhere I would like to own a vacation home for its breezy summers and gorgeous falls.
I first came across Karuizawa in the office of EtonHouse Japan. My friend Anli showed me a video of kids running, laughing and playing in a field surrounded by lush green trees. The first thought that came to my mind is how I would love for my kids to do the same - be in nature unplugged from devices, go on treks, play in creeks, challenge themselves with the high ropes course, build confidence etc. Unfortunately, summer vacation in Japan only starts in July after my kids go back to school post-June holidays. The only way for my kids to experience this amazing outdoor camp in Karuizawa is for me to organise one for kids from Singapore. This is how Saturday Kids Unplugged started in Karuizawa in 2019.
Saturday Kids Unplugged Karuizawa, 2019
When we ran the first camp in 2019, we weren’t sure how city kids from Singapore would take to it, so we kept it to three days. To our surprise, kids loved it so much at the end of three days they asked for more. Word got around in Singapore about this nature-based camp in Karuizawa that kids can attend during the June holidays, and Unplugged 2020 sold out pretty quickly. Alas, Covid hit, so we weren’t able to run the camp for a couple of years. When we eventually ran the camp again this June, we made it five days instead of three. Kids loved every minute of it.
Parents drop the kids off at the camp site at 9am every morning and pick them up at 3pm. In between, parents get couple time to check out everything Karuizawa has to offer.
Here are some of my top picks.
Commongrounds is a mixed development with restaurants, shops and cafes anchored by Tsutaya bookstore. A lovely spot for soba, coffee and me time. Settle into one of the lounge chairs outside Tsutaya and spend the day reading a Murakami novel.
Shishi Iwa House
Shishi-Iwa House is a collection of intimately crafted retreats designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Shigeru Ban and Ryue Nishizawa.
Shishi-Iwa House began with an interest in using the field of architecture to provide guests with a restorative sanctuary and a place for intellectual creativity.
Enjoy a special 15% discount by reserving a room at least 60 days ahead of the arrival date.
Mikasa Coffee Shop
Mikasa Coffee Shop is a charming cafe just down the hill from Rising Field, where we run the camp. Surrounded by trees and completely in the woods, this blink-and-you-miss-it old-school coffee shop is all about tranquility and slowing down. As of the time of this writing, Mikasa is temporarily closed, according to Google Maps. I’m hopeful it will reopen before long.
Shiraito Waterfall is a popular spot to go trekking. Look out for the old man selling wood-fire grilled fish for 700 yen apiece just in front of the waterfall. Delicious.
Hoshino Hot Spring
Hoshino Hot Spring is an indoor and outdoor onsen in the Hoshino Area. One of my favourite things to do in Japan is to soak in an outdoor onsen. The kids love it too. Don’t forget to check out the restaurants and shops in nearby Haruinre Terrace. There is a hotel on site too, so staying at Hoshino is an option.
Old Karuizawa Ginza Street
Old Karuizawa Ginza Street is a cobbled street known for existing examples of Meiji period historical buildings, such as the classic Mampei Hotel and the St. Paul's Catholic Church. There are many restaurants, cafes and artisan shops along the main street.
Prince Shopping Plaza
Prince Shopping Plaza is a giant outdoor outlet mall with hundreds of branded boutiques, an outdoor play area for kids, and many cafes and restaurants. As far as outlet malls go, this is one of the most inviting and beautiful I’ve been.
PSLE kids probably need to decompress more than anyone else. This October 16-18, during PSLE marking week, join us in Karuizawa for 3 days of going unplugged in nature. It will do your child a world of good.