karuizawa winter

If you are staying in Tokyo, Nagano is another prefecture you can easily reach via shinkansen (bullet train). It is a mountainous area great for winter sceneries and activities, with Karuizawa as among the best winter dreamland just less than an hour’s shinkansen ride from the city.

Karuizawa Prince Snow Resort is the place to go if you like winter activities such as skiing, snowboarding, or simply playing in the snow. This place is almost secret to tourists, as most people go to other more popular spots such as Gala Yuzawa and Nikko for snow. That’s why as a foreigner, Karuizawa is perfect if you want to stay away from touristy areas to feel more of Japan’s winter scene authentically.

Watch our Japan winter escapade!

Karuizawa Prince Snow Resort: A Day Trip from Tokyo

Honestly, we were supposed to visit Gala Yuzawa but due to strong winds, we needed to tweak our itinerary. Thankfully, Karuizawa in Nagano is another winter spot we can effortlessly visit via shinkansen using our JR Tokyo Wide Pass.

We boarded the shinkansen from Tokyo Station and alighted at Karuizawa Station. The ride took about 50 minutes. Then we rode the free shuttle bus service going to Prince Snow Resort. It was just a short 5-minute ride. And that’s it. In just an hour’s journey, we transitioned from sunny (but still chilly) Tokyo to snowy Karuizawa!

 

Lunch at Clove Cafe

The shuttle bus took us to the admission area of Prince Snow Resort. There’s a nice restaurant beside it called Clove Cafe (you won’t see it in English so you need a translator app). We took our lunch first so that we’re fueled up for the activity, while we also wait for the drizzles to stop.

 

clove cafe karuizawa prince snow resort
Walking to Clove Cafe
clove cafe karuizawa
You can eat while you watch the skiers
Itadakimasu!
Our simple lunch

 

We had Ebi Tempura with Rice and Curry Soba for lunch. I was about to wonder if it tastes authentic or not, but then I quickly came back to my senses that we’re already in Japan. And not just in Japan, but in a less-touristy province at that.

We were literally eating with Japanese locals who are mostly children and teens. It seems they’re here to spend the weekend off from school. Not like the day before in Nikko, where there are many foreigners of different races. Although that was a nice setting, but this one is a different kind of nice, because you will feel that you are actually in Japan.

 

Karuizawa Prince Snow Resort Winter Activities and Rates

Of course, skiing and snowboarding are the major activities in the resort. But we were not feeling adventurous and brave enough at the moment and we just wanted to experience playing in the snow.

There’s a Lift Sightseeing Ride which looked interesting as well, but there was so much fog. It might be better if nothing is blocking the views while you’re being lifted up there. So we decided to stay for a while at the Snow Park so we could play in the snow first while waiting for the perfect moment for the Lift Sightseeing Ride.

 

karuizawa prince snow resort rates
Rates for the Lift Sightseeing Ride
Rates for the Snow Park Activities

 

The Lift Sightseeing Ride costs ¥2,000 / ₱745 for adults and ¥1,200 / ₱447 for children. There’s a ¥300 discount for those with a membership. The Snow Park rate is ¥2,200 / ₱820 per person (adult or child). Included in the Snow Park rates are the unlimited use of sled and tubing.

The Snow Park is mainly for children, but adults who are kids at heart (like us) are very much welcome too.

 

Sled and Tubing Activity at the Snow Park

We were the only adults using the sled but don’t laugh at us. There’s no snow in our home country! The other adults were only looking after their kids playing. It was our first time to do this and we were so happy!

The sled area is huge enough, which makes for a more enjoyable and longer sledding path. It has a safe slope so that the kids won’t get too overwhelmed. But for the kids at heart like us who want a faster ride, we made up for it by pushing our sled harder.

 

karuizawa winter sled
Getting ready for sledding

 

Another activity is Snow Tubing. Here, you will be riding a circular vessel made from a huge tire. The sliding path is long enough and you’d bump on the wall every now and then until you reach the bottom end. Staff is needed here to avoid accidents because if you push too hard, you might fall outside the wall. It is more extreme compared to sledding, but certainly safe for everyone especially kids.

 

snow tubing karuizawa winter
Snow Tubing

 

We tried the Snow Tubing twice. As for the sledding, I couldn’t count how many times but maybe 10? We did not mind going back and forth because there’s a walkalator that we could use to go back uphill.

We also took time to rest and enjoy the views while watching the skiers on the other side. They’re so pro, and there were even kids! Looks like Japanese locals go to Karuizawa every winter to hone their skiing skills.

We could also see the Sightseeing Lift running non-stop, but not so many people riding it maybe because of the fog.

 

karuizawa winter prince snow resort
Ski Area of Karuizawa Snow Resort during winter

 

It was also a perfect time for picture taking and selfies for memorabilia.

 

karuizawa winter
Couple selfie
Egao!
Mini Snowman
Picture at the ski area

 

It was already getting late, so we just dropped the idea of riding the Sightseeing Lift. Seemed the fog had no plans of going away. We were also waiting for our friends, but they arrived too late for the snow activity.

Before we left the place, we managed to take some photos at the base of ski area near the admission, before the resort closes.

 

karuizawa prince snow resort winter

 

It was such a great winter experience in Karuizawa. Not a popular place but definitely worth it!

 

Back to Tokyo

We left the place the same way we came. We waited a few minutes for the free shuttle bus service going back to Karuizawa Station. Then from there, we took a shinkansen bound for Tokyo Station. Easy as abc.

 

Where to buy a JR Tokyo Wide Pass?

Here are links where you can purchase your JR Tokyo Wide Pass.

BONUS: JR Pass for the Whole of Japan – If you intend to visit multiple areas of Japan for at least 7 days

 

JR TOKYO Wide Pass Coverage
Coverage of JR Tokyo Wide Pass

Each JR Tokyo Wide Pass costs 15,000 JPY / 5,700 PHP

You can enjoy unlimited rides in all JR-East Lines and Shinkansen valid for 3 days.

TIP: Pick at least 2 destinations via Shinkansen to better utilize your pass. For example, we used the JR Tokyo Wide Pass for our JR-East line and Shinkansen trips to Nikko, Karuizawa, and Mt. Fuji. All in all, we rode a shinkansen at least 4 times, and the JR-East line at least 4 times as well.

Day 1:
Shinkansen from Tokyo to Utsunomiya
JR-East Line from Utsunomiya to Nikko
JR-East Line from Nikko to Utsunomiya
Shinkansen from Utsunomiya to Tokyo

Day 2:
Shinkansen from Tokyo to Karuizawa
Shinkansen from Karuizawa to Tokyo

Day 3:
JR-East Line from Tokyo to Otsuki
JR-East Limited Express from Kawaguchiko to Tokyo

Day 4-5: Unlimited Tokyo Subway for city tour (separate from JR Tokyo Wide Pass)

This is just to show an example of a fully utilized pass.

Still, take note that even if you pick only one Shinkansen destination plus one regular JR-East destination, it’s still worth it. It depends on your itinerary and it’s up to you which destinations will fit within 3 days of the pass validity.

 

Claiming your JR Tokyo Wide Pass

  1. Look for the Ticket Vending Machine inside any JR-East station
    Tip: Better if you have a printed copy of the QR code sent to you via email so that it will be easier to ask for help in case you can’t find the ticket vending machine.
  2. Scan the QR code sent to you via email and your passport’s information page
    Tip: Prepare these two first before using the ticket-vending machine.
    There’s an English language option so don’t be too anxious. Just follow the instructions on the screen.
  3. You’ll get your JR Tokyo Wide Pass within seconds!

Notes:

  • If you purchased multiple passes in one transaction, you will only need to scan the passport info page of the lead passenger along with the QR code. No need to scan all the passports of all passengers.
    For example, I booked 4 passes in one transaction. I scanned the QR code and my passport, and I got all 4 passes for our group.
  • The 3-day validity of the pass will start on the claiming date.
JR Tokyo Wide Pass
JR Tokyo Wide Pass Tracking Ticket

Another thing, you will be issued another ticket together with the actual JR Tokyo Wide Pass. Keep it too, as it can also be used for tracking. In our experience, our friend accidentally left her JR Tokyo Wide Pass at the automatic ticket gate. Good thing, she kept this ticket and she was able to retrieve back her JR Tokyo Wide Pass.

 

Reserving seats

  1. Go to any JR-East Ticket Office
    Every JR Station has a Ticket Office where you can reserve your train seats. You will usually find them beside the ticket gates before you enter the train platform.
  2. Present your JR Tokyo Wide Pass and passports
    This time, you will need to present the passports of each passenger.
    1 JR Pass : 1 passport
  3. Give your preferred destination and departure time
    The staff will give you the exact time of the next train departure. Assess if you can come on time. If in case it’s too early, you can pick another schedule. The staff will show the succeeding train schedules available.
  4. Pick your seats
    The staff will show on the screen the available seats on your specified train schedule.
  5. Take your Reserved Seat Ticket
    Keep it together with your JR Tokyo Wide Pass. The details of your reservation are indicated here (e.g. car number, seat number, departure date & time, destination, etc.)
  6. Board the train
    Go to your designated train car as shown on your ticket. Look for your seat, then sit back and relax.
reserved seat tickets
Reserved Seat Tickets

In our experience, no one asked for our Reserved Seat Tickets. It is just for your own reference, and it will also be useful if in case someone else (usually passengers with non-reserved seats) is sitting on your reserved seat. So that you can politely show them your Reserved Seat Ticket and they can transfer to other unoccupied seats.

You can also board the train without seat reservations as there are designated cars for non-reserved seats. If it gets full, you can take seats from the reserved cars but you will need to transfer to an unoccupied seat every time the reserved passenger arrives.

It is still advisable to reserve your seats unless you are in a hurry. This also happens to us every time we travel back to our place of origin. Good thing, the train was not always full.

 


 

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Arigatō! Til our next Japan posts!

 


 

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Dea Mariano

About Author

Hi, I'm Dea! A traveler who loves good food and an electronics engineer based in PH. I like creating itineraries and daydreaming about the places. As weird as it might sound, I find the planning part as enjoyable as the trip itself. I love sunsets, beaches, and staycation trips. And I'm a worshipper of God—the source of my everything! I once wandered aimlessly in life, until Jesus found me! Now, I just wander around wonderful places as I marvel at His creation ❤️

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