This trip was organized by the Karuizawa Prince Hotel. Click here to book a room at this hotel
Karuizawa was first popularised as a mountain resort area by foreign residents of Japan in the late 1800s. These days it is a popular destination for both foreign and Japanese travellers alike. With tons of activities on offer from skiing, tennis, shopping and hiking, this is the perfect place for a family trip. For those looking to escape the city for a short break, its proximity to Tokyo - just 70 minutes on the shinkansen from JR Tokyo Station - makes it an easy escape to the beautiful mountain landscapes of the Japanese countryside.
The small minibus wound its way up the side of the mountain, I looked around at the winter trees sticking out in prickly leafless thickets with the occasional smattering of long thin pines. The sky was blue and the sun was shining, and I was on my way to the Hotel Mt. Fuji. Sitting up high at 1,100 meters, as the name would suggest, the hotel offers some of the finest views of the majestic old mountain that any in Japan can offer. Situated on the shores of Lake Yamanakako, one of Mount Fuji's 5 lakes, this hotel provides the perfect retreat for those looking to take in some real nature while visiting Japan.
The New Akan Hotel sits snugly next to Lake Akan in the Akan National Park. The lake itself is famous for its rare marimo balls of algae that form naturally here; in fact, this type of larvae is only found to form naturally in Japan, Estonia, Iceland and Scotland. The lake was formed some 6,000 years ago by volcanic activity, hence the rich sprinkling of hot spring resorts in the area. The waters of Akan have been popular since ancient times when they were frequented by Hokkaido's original inhabitants, the Ainu. The hot spring waters of Akan are said to be therapeutic for nerve pain and arthritis. The views in this area are astounding, a delicious blend of crystal lake and sharp, snow-covered mountain ranges - which goes a long way to explain why this area has been designated as a national park. In the photo above Mount Oakan can be seen in the background.
The Toya Sunpalace can be found on the banks of Lake Toya, a beautiful crystal-clear caldera lake - formed by the collapse of a volcano. The lake is some 10 kilometers in diameter, and hosts a number of onsen resorts on its shores. The Toya Sunpalace is a large, long-established hotel with 452 guest rooms, the majority of which proudly boast beautiful views of the lake.
As the name suggests, the Jozankei View Hotel is surrounded by wonderful scenery, and from its elevated position offers beautiful views in all directions as far as the eye can see. The surrounding scenery changes color and tone in a delightful pattern throughout the year. This has inspired the hotel to hold its own "4 seasons photo competition" in which entrants are invited to submit photos showing the hotel and its scenery in any one of its 4 seasonal colors.