Nagano’s highland resort town of Karuizawa is just 70 minutes via the Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo Station and offers so much to see and do.
For art and history buffs, Karuizawa has a wide selection of impressive museums to choose from.
Exiting Karuizawa Station and heading southwest, you will find the Karuizawa Taliesin, one of Karuizawa’s largest leisure parks situated near Lake Shiozawa (Shiozawa-ko in Japanese). The park is home to three museums, five historic buildings, a rose garden and six restaurants and cafes. The three museums are: the Musée Peynet, the Kouko Fukazawa Nonohana Flower Museum and the Literary Museum of Karuizawa.
There are four museums in the world dedicated to the work of Raymond Peynet, a French graphic artist born in 1908. There are two museums in France (Antibes and Brassac les Mines) and two in Japan (Karuizawa and Mimasaka). The Karuizawa museum is housed in a building that was designed by Czech-born US architect Antonin Raymond in 1933. In front of the building, a bronze statue dedicated to Peynet’s Lovers can be found. The facility also contains a pottery shop, restaurant and boutique where books, pottery, posters and jewelry are sold.
The Kouko Fukazawa Nonohana Flower Museum is an art gallery dedicated to the works of the painter, Kouko Fukazawa (1903-1993). The gallery is housed in a stately old wooden building that began life in 1911 as the Karuizawa Post Office.
Finally, the Literary Museum of Karuizawa contains a collection of manuscripts and correspondence from writers connected with Karuizawa. Completed in 1985, the building was designed by GK Sekkei, an architecture firm headquartered in Tokyo, formed by a group of students who studied under pioneering Japanese designer Koike Iwataro.
Just down the street from Karuizawa Taliesin, you will find the The Karuizawa Picture Book Forest Museum. The building was constructed by a Scottish missionary named A.C. Shaw in 1886, who sought inspiration from the Forest of Muse. Today, the museum houses 6,000 items consisting largely of western works of pictorial literature and children’s books including a number of first editions and rare printings, which are spread across three buildings. The museum grounds also include a book shop, a garden shop and a large central garden.
Venturing north of Karuizawa Station, you will encounter the Karuizawa New Art Museum (KaNAM). The museum is dedicated to post-war Japanese and foreign modern art. The glass building was designed by Japanese architect, Rikuo Nishimori and opened in 2012. The white supports on the exterior and interior represent the local forests. The museum includes an art shop and an Italian restaurant, Ristorante Pietrino.
Located near the Sengataki Waterfall, you will find the Sezon Museum of Modern Art. The museum houses a collection of modern art works by world-famous artists from the early 20th century to the present. The museum’s collection consists of 500 pieces and is selectively exhibited to the public during spring and summer. There is a terrace cafe and museum gift shop on the premises as well.
Lastly, a museum worth the trip is the Hiroshi Senju Museum. Hiroshi Senju is an internationally renowned painter who has created large-scale paintings for locations such as the Grand Hyatt Tokyo and Haneda Airport. The building was designed and built by the architect Ryue Nishizawa and can best be described as a clean, elegant collection of exhibition spaces harmoniously set amongst beautiful natural backdrops both inside and out.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are a number of smaller museums which house private collections and cater to many different interests. Karuizawa is a lush, cool, beautiful place to visit where many of Japan’s wealthy own elegant summer homes. The central part of the town is stylishly laid out with restaurants, cafes and boutiques and worth visiting once you have toured the various museums in the area. The best way to tour Karuizawa is to plan an overnight stay where you can take full advantage of all this resort town has to offer.