Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture has long been a well-loved mountain resort town with mild summer climate, given its easy access barely 1-hour away from Tokyo if you hop on the shinkansen.

It is especially popular as a destination for summer vacation for both domestic and international travelers with its cool temperature. However, winter is often a skipped season as ski and snowboard enthusiasts often just make a beeline to more famous ski resorts like Hakuba and Shiga Kogen in the same prefecture. If you are looking to spend a more relaxed, slow-paced holiday away from the crowd in your own privacy, I have just the right spot for you.

Asama Kuzanbo, Kita-Karuizawa

Located 45-min away drive away from Karuizawa Station, Asama Kuzanbo is an all-suite luxurious villa resort tucked in the untouched nature of Kita-Karuizawa.

Kita-Karuizawa is an area located in Naganohara Town. Now, despite its location naming that deludes one to imagine it must be part of Nagano Prefecture, the exact location actually sits well within its neighbor, Gunma Prefecture.

Compared to its glamorous cousin Karuizawa, Kita-Karuizawa is the low-key, quieter, much more affordable contender for those who are looking to buy a second home or summer villa. The fact that it is so well hidden gives it an advantage of being discovered by those who look really hard and therefore rewarded.

The best way to get to Asama Kuzanbo is by self-driving, and you can easily pick up your ride from the car rental shop nearby Karuizawa Station. Key in the address in your car navi, and here you go!

The Villa

I was invited for a 2-day stay at the presidential suite (gasp!!), and happily check into Polaris, the largest of all villas. There are also Sirius the superior suite and Cassiopeia the deluxe suite.

It’s worth noting that check-ins and check-outs are completely contactless. You will receive an email containing your check-in code and password to unlock the door. So once you arrive at your accommodation, you can just waltz in like it’s your own home. Talk about style! This is to ensure safety and also to prioritize privacy.

All villa offers a splendid view of Mt Asama, an active volcano that is the symbol of the Kita-Karuizawa area. Although not nearly as famous as the Fuji, it is impressive enough to make one sigh at its granduer, given its proximity to the villa.

Polaris Villa comes with two rooms: the Western bed room and the Japanese-style tatami room, and can fit up to 8 pax. For those with pets, they are welcome to join your holiday fun together!

The highlight of my stay was the jaccuzi tub overlooking Mt Asama, connected to a wooden deck with outdoor sofa.

The villa is even equipped with a Finnish-style sauna! Too bad there isn’t a mizuburo (cold bath), unless you want to fill the whole jaccuzi tub with cold water ala the iceman style. (It might be a good idea in summer time, though!) There’s a shower room to make it up, though, for you to cool off after your sauna session.

For mizuburo lovers, fret not! Tenku Spa is a public bath located at the foot of the resort, where you can soak in Kita-Karuizawa’s natural spring water. A sauna is available too, along with a really cold mizuburo (8°C!) for a true sauna experience. Life is good.

Breakfast & Dinner

Although you are welcome to cook on your own as the villa is equipped with ample kitchenware, I recommend to just let Asama Kuzanbo take care of your appetite.

Tenku Dining is a restaurant providing a good selections of meals, but nothing beats having top-notch meals in the comfort of your own villa.

Breakfast is an ensemble of local’s finest served in your villa, you can pick either Western breakfast or Japanese breakfast. It will usually be delivered to you along with dinner on the previous night, and is stored in the fridge for freshness.

We were spoilt beyond recognition during dinner by Kuzanbo’s hospitality. Knowing I am a meat lover, a Matsusaka A5 Wagyu Beef Yakiniku dinner was prepared, along with other branded meat. Talk about luxury!

The meat festival continued well into the second night. This time around, we had Matsusaka Beef, shabu shabu style.

Whether you are looking for a quiet bonding time with family or to throw a fun-filled party, you will have it here at Kuzanbo.

Things to See & Do Nearby

Asama Otaki

Although one may feel tempted to just stay in the comfort of the villa forever and ever, there are actually a plethora of activities you can enjoy in the vicinity.

Kita-Karuizawa is beautiful all year round, you can bask in mother nature’s grace without having to queue or dodge a dozen of selfie sticks for stunning photo like the above.

One of my top recommendation is Asama Otaki Waterfall, a magnificent waterfall located just less than a 10-min drive from Kuzanbo. The frozen icicles surrounding the waterfall gives it an extra winter wonderland charm.

Just for the record, there are a few smaller-scale ski resorts nearby, if you happen to want to challenge yourself in some exciting snow activities.

Snow Shoe Trekking

One of my favorite winter activities in recent years is snow shoe trekking. Being much less physically demanding than winter sports like skiing or snowboarding, just walking on snow grounds is therapeutic and suitable for all ages and all physical capabilities.

I met my guide, Horie San from Asama Field Network for a half-day snow shoe tour up in the Yunomaru Kogen Heights, part of the Joshinestukogen National Park.

You can book this tour with Kuzanbo, just let them know in advance when your make reservation for your accommodation.

What I love about snow shoe trekking is that it gives you a really unique snowscape experience, as you walk into fluffy fresh snow that no one has stepped on before, and trek on snow grounds that are usually unwalkable in summer time.

It is also absolutely delightful to spot smol footprints of animals, trying to guess who they are and what they might have been doing here.

Horie san is an excellent guide who is not only knowledgeable, but also mindful all the time to make sure his guests get the best experience out of a brief moments shared together. I was surprised to learn that he also knows Master Hoshino through our visit to the Dewa Sanzan.

It amazes me how by just walking quietly on snow ground, it opens up my perspective on mother nature and once again I feel drawn to reconnect and live in harmony with our surroundings.

To be honest, I realized that the only unsightly thing out in snowy nature was… human’s footprints. Messy and rough. Unlike the bunny for foxes or martens who just blend seamlessly with nature as if they are one, human footprints seemed… out of place. Looks like I have more shugyo to do…

Anyway, I digress.

If you are looking to also experience a slice of Japan that’s still largely unknown, indulge in a serene retreat uninterrupted by the daily urban chaos yet not sacrificing comfort and luxury, Asama Kuzanbo is your best bet. Don’t forget that other than winter, any other season is equally charming. It’s for you and you alone to discover.

Go book your stay now!


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