John Lennon Bread
An hour shinkansen ride from Tokyo station gets you to Karuizawa. A little town surrounded by a picture perfect green ring of mountains. Upon leaving the station, the modern traveller is greeted with two choices. Head south and get stuck in an enormous ring of newly minted outlet malls. Or head north, onto the historic shopping street, and into the green mountains beyond.
Being modern travellers, we opted for both. I mean it was a little chilly being right on the cusp of fall, so we bought some extra layers and then headed for the mountains.
Our hotel, the Pension Uehara, lay just off the main shopping street, kind of built into the woods.An A-frame structure with a couple of floors. A basic ski lodge style facility, with a sweet staff ushering in all the visitors like family.
With our bags dropped off, we continued further down the shopping street. Passing all manner of real estate offices, rental bike shops and restaurants. Eventually we came to a little french bakery called French Bakery, that once famously served bread to John Lennon and his family. Karuizawa makes for a perfect, small town retreat where even the most famous musician in the world could go to be anonymous and blend into the woods.
The sun went down and the shops started closing all at once. We found a modern mini mall that looked like something you might find in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Everything was dark, but we walked to the backside of the open air mall just in case. Turned out a gigantic Italian / pizza place was open. We were the only guests. The realities of the off season beginning to sink in. We ate and talked as our kids danced like they owned the place.
The next day we visited another resort set up along a river in the middle of the woods. The buildings in the complex were woven between and wound around trees like a modern remake of the Ewok village. The buildings were all finished in a beautiful black painted wood.
We opted for the marquee soba shop out of the ten or so restaurants and cafes in the complex. On one wooden landing they had built an outdoor library with wooden columns packed with book shelves. Everything about the place was designed uniquely.