Located approximately 170km to the north-west of Tokyo, Karuizawa is a small mountain resort town popular with Tokyo-ites and international visitors alike. Known for its cooler climate in summer, picturesque snows of winter, and pleasant shopping and dining precinct, Karuizawa is a wealthy little town in a beautiful setting. On this page you will find the following information:
As a stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line – running from Tokyo to Kanazawa – Karuizawa Station is readily accessible from the capital or nearby Nagano City. The relatively short journey from the capital, Nagano or Kanazawa means that it can easily be included in an itinerary as a day-trip or stop between destinations. Karuizawa Station is very small therefore you won’t have any problem navigating it. The station effectively splits the town into the old and the new. The traditional Ginza Shopping Street is accessible via the station’s North Exit, while the expansive Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza is directly accessible from the South Exit.
In recent years, Karuizawa has become known for its huge Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza, located right next to the station. Wildly popular with both domestic and international visitors, the expansive area is spread over 26 hectares and divided into six areas. More than 200 stores – including many international fashion brands – along with restaurants and landscape outdoor areas, make the plaza an enjoyable destination for avid shoppers. While it won’t appeal to every traveler, it certainly will for many. Open daily from 10:00 to 19:00 (with some days extended to 21:00 during summer), the huge Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza. Karuizawa is an enjoyable town to explore by bicycle. Many rental stores surround the station and typically charge JPY500 per hour or JPY1000 for the day.
TRAIN LINES / SERVICES RUNNING TO KARUIZAWA STATION
Two train lines service Iiyama: the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line and the local Shinano Railway Line. Of those, the Hokuriku Shinkansen will be of most interest to international visitors:
Running from Tokyo Station to Kanazawa Station – via Nagano Station – the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line is the main transport route used by visitors coming to and from the region. It includes stops at the following stations:
Tokyo / Ueno / Omiya / Kumagaya / Honjo-Waseda / Takasaki / Annaka-Haruna / Karuizawa / Sakudaira / Ueda / Nagano / Iiyama / Joetsu-Myoko / Itoigawa / Kurobe-Unazukionsen / Toyama / Shin-Takaoka / Kanazawa
There are four different services on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line – the Kagayaki, Hakutaka, Asama and Tsurugi. It is important to note that only the Hakutaka and Asama services stop at Karuizawa. If Karuizawa is your destination, you must use one of those. From Tokyo Station, the Hakutaka takes around 65 minutes to reach Karuizawa and costs JPY5490 one-way. The slower Asama service takes around 75 minutes to reach Karuizawa and also costs JPY5490 one-way. From Nagano Station, both the Hakutaka and Asama take around 30 minutes to reach Karuizawa and costs JPY3210 one-way. From the northern terminus of Kanazawa Station, the Hakutaka service takes around 120 minutes and costs JPY11,120. Further information and tips for using the Hokuriku Shinkansen, please refer to our ‘Hokuriku Shinkansen Line’ page. To see the daily train schedule, please refer to our ‘Hokuriku Shinkansen Line Timetable’ page.
All Hokuriku Shinkansen services are covered by all three Japan Rail passes listed below.
SHINANO RAILWAY LINE
The Shinano Line is a local railway which connects Karuizawa to Komoro, Ueda, Togura, Chikuma and onto Nagano Station via the Shintetsu Main Line. The total journey from Karuizawa to Nagano takes approximately 90 minutes and costs JPY1670. While it is an easy and enjoyable route, unless you have a reason to use the line we recommend using the Hokuriku Shinkansen to reach Nagano.
RAIL PASSES COVERING TRAVEL TO KARUIZAWA
There is no escaping the fact that travel using the shinkansen and other rapid services is expensive. Given the speed and distances covered by these trains, travelers should think of them much like taking a flight, with tickets accordingly priced. International visitors to Japan have the option of purchasing one of several passes which allow for unlimited use of the Hokuriku along with other services:
JAPAN RAIL (JR) PASS
Covering all 9 shinkansen lines in Japan and many other train services, the JR Pass is a great option for visitors planning to use the shinkansen more than a handful of times and/or travel large distances. Travelers have the option of 7, 14 and 21-day passes covering either Ordinary or Ordinary and Green Cars. The JR Pass allows for use of any service on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line at no additional cost but noting that should holders wish to have a reserved seat, they are still required to book a seat at the ticket office (at no additional cost).
JAPAN RAIL (JR) PASS / NAGANO & NIIGATA
This pass covers the Hokuriku and Joetsu Shinkansen lines serving Nagano and Niigata, along with other regional services. There is only one option of pass, covering 5 days of use within a 14-day period from its date of activation. Notably cheaper than the JR Pass, this is a great option for visitors staying within Nagano and Niigata. Much like the JR Pass, it allows for use of any service on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line at no additional cost but noting that should holders wish to have a reserved seat, they are still required to book a seat at the ticket office (at no additional cost).
HOKURIKU ARCH PASS
Valid for 7 consecutive days from date of activation, the Hokuriku Arch Pass covers train services from Tokyo – including trains from both Narita and Haneda Airports – to Nagano and Kanazawa and then onto Kyoto, Osaka and Kansai Airport. For many international visitors, this pass covers the majority of their intended destinations as the they follow the most popular tourist route from Tokyo to Kanazawa and onto Kyoto and Osaka. Notably cheaper than the full JR Pass, the Hokuriku Arch Pass offers fantastic convenience and savings.
PURCHASING & ACTIVATING A JR PASS
Passes can be purchased via the official website or via a JR-affiliated overseas sales office. Once you have completed payment, you will receive an exchange order. This is a proof of payment and looks almost like a flight ticket with your personal details, type of pass, and validity (three months from the date of issue). It is important to note that the exchange order is not your actual pass and will need to be exchanged for your pass once in Japan. Whatever you do, do not lose the exchange order and prioritise exchanging it for your pass when you arrive.
Before using a pass, it must first be exchanged/activated. It is important to note that JR passes cannot be exchanged/activated at Karuizawa. Exchanging/activating the pass can however be done at numerous offices located at airports – including Narita Airport, Haneda Airport, Chubu Centrair International Airport and Kansai International Airport – and major train stations throughout Japan. If you have the time, we recommend activating your pass while at the airport. Otherwise, passes can also be activated at these stations on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line: Tokyo Station / Nagano Station / Kanazawa Station.
To exchange/activate your pass you will need your exchange order and passport. Make sure you allow adequate time to exchange and activate your pass if you are intending to use it on the same day or do so a day or two before you plan to start using it (you can always nominate a later activation date). Once you have your activated pass you are free to ride however you can’t insert your pass into the ticket gates. Simply walk through the side booth (permanently attended by station staff) and show your pass. You will be waved through and you can make your way to the platform.
BUS SERVICES RUNNING TO KARUIZAWA STATION
Local buses run to and from the station, connecting it to attractions and destinations spread across Karuizawa. A highway bus also connects Karuizawa Station to Tokyo:
Five services per day connect Karuizawa Station to Tokyo, operating from Ikebukuro Station. The journey takes around 3 hours and costs JPY2700.
Two companies – Kusakaru Kotsu and Seibu – operate regular daily services that connect the station to nearby attractions.
Using Kusakaru Kotsu buses the following destinations can be reached: Kyu-Karuizawa (5 min / JPY160) and Shiraito Falls (25 min / JPY720).
Using Seibu buses connects you to the following: Kyu-Karuizawa (5 min / JPY150) and Naka-Karuizawa (15 min / JPY290). Some Seibu services also head-on to Onioshidashi Volcanic Park (35 min / JPY1230). Seibu also operates buses to Harunire Terrace (20 min / JPY460).
For visitors heading to Kusatsu Onsen, six daily services take around 80 minutes / JPY2240 one-way. The following timetable operates daily:
The following return schedule operates from Kusatsu Onsen to Karuizawa Station:
All bus services operate outside the station’s North Exit. For suggestions of what’s on offer in Kusatsu, see our ’25 Things to Do Around Kusatsu Onsen & Where to Stay’ page.
KARUIZAWA INFORMATION CENTER
The station’s Information Center is located nearby the North Exit. Open every day from 09:00 until 17:00, staff can general enquiries, transport enquiries, timetables and maps, accommodation (enquiries only) and luggage storage and delivery. Full-time English-speaking staff are on-hand to assist with Chinese-speakers also available at periods through the day.
HOW TO GET TO KARUIZAWA
As a stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line running from Tokyo to Kanazawa, Karuizawa is easy to reach from the capital, nearby Nagano and beyond. Our ‘How To Get To Karuizawa’ page explains how to make the journey from those and many other popular starting points.
25 THINGS TO DO AROUND KARUIZAWA & WHERE TO STAY
Karuizawa is one of Japan’s most famous resort towns offering lots of reasons to visit. Within easy reach of Tokyo, both Japanese and international visitors flock to Karuizawa to enjoy its cool alpine climate, shopping, restaurants, museum, galleries and array of great accommodation. Sitting on the boundary of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, visitors headed to Karuizawa can also enjoy nearby destinations including Mount Asama, Mount Kusatsu-Shirane and multiple hot spring towns including Kusatsu Onsen. For lots of great tips and suggestions of what to do and where to stay, see our ’25 Things To Do Around Karuizawa & Where To Stay’ page.
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We can arrange both private tours with an English-speaking guide or a private charter, including a private vehicle and driver but without a guide. We’d love to be part of your adventure in Central Japan and help you discover even more!
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