Between 1980s and late 1990s, during the Japan’s “bubble economy”, while the consumer spending were soaring, many celebrities joined the momentum by setting up businesses to capture the consumption boom. The legacies included Harajuku in Tokyo as well as two highland towns in the suburbs of Tokyo namely: Karuizawa and Kiyosato.
Within the direct distance of approximately 120km from Shinjuku, both the towns have comparable weather and are at the highland. However, after the collapse of the bubble economy, each held a different destiny due to its geographical location. Karuizawa is strategically along the northbound Shinkansen (Nagano Shinkansen), the through traffic has continuously brought businesses and customers to the area. On the contrary, Kiyosato which used to be known as the “Highland Harajuku” has turned into a “barren highland”.
The Kiyosato railway station which was frequented by the youngsters in the past is a quiet street today. Outlets from thirty years ago are vacant. Back then, the media played a key role in speculating and attracting the crowd which subsequently triggered the establishment of more businesses. The glory from the past has diminished. Today, Kiyosato is hardly known to the young generation of Tokyo.
Both Karuizawa and Kiyosato are ideal locations for summer cottages. The pleasant summer weather has attracted property owners here. The crowd subsided accordingly after the bubble economy. Inline with the retirement of the “Post-World War II baby boomer”* (in Japanese: “Dankai no sedai”) in the past ten years, there is demand for properties in the suburbs of Tokyo, including Kiyosato.
*Post-World War II baby boomer: the first generation born between 1947 and 1949 after the World War (approximately 8 million)
The era of rapid economic growth (1960s – 1970s) and bubble economy (1980s – 1990s) were economic miracles. This generation has gone through the peak and trough. Many of them look forward to relocate to the countryside for peaceful retirement. The present settlers in Kiyosato has contributed to part of its revival. The growth has expanded to a broader area, not limited to the vicinity of Kiyosato railway station thirty years ago, through the joint efforts of the locals and newcomers.
Public transport to Kiyosato is limited. Not many taxis are available. It is best to self-drive in this area.
This venue is next to Sun Meadows Ski Resort, opened in 2016. You could access to this point (1,900m above sea level) via cable car and enjoy the view of Kiyosato area including Mount Fuji and the Japanese Alps.
If you are here in spring or autumn, it is best to bring along a sweater. The temperature difference is quite significant as compared to Tokyo.
Moegi no mura
Moegi no mura is embedded in the forest near the Kiyosato railway station. A wooden cottage in the green. A venue where you can Immerse yourself in the fairy tale world. You can find restaurants, hotel, musical box museum, handicraft shops, just to name a few. Not to forget the wooden horses merry-go-round. In summer, there are performances of professional ballet dancers as one of the attractions to the visitors.
The restaurant, ROCK, is known for its curry rice. Unfortunately, a fire in August 2016 has forced it to close down for nine months of renovation. ROCK was back in business in April 2017.
Proximity to nature and fit for all ages yet unnoticed by foreign visitors. This park is a herding venue in the summer with possibility for visitors to interact with cattles, sheep and goats. Children could play in the field and spend time with the herds while adults could enjoy the sceneries. Mount Fuji is within the view towards the east.
Another spot worth mentioning is Seisenryo. Short drive from this park.
Various cuisines have been brought to Japan and localized as common food. Curry is one of the popular ones. It has hard not to find curry in the eateries. This restaurant is ranked one of the best in the region due to its unique curry rice. Reasonable portion and delicious (definitely a key factor).
There is always long queue in summer peak travel season. The waiting in front of the restaurant could vary from 1 to 1.5 hours.
A cozy and comfortable restaurant operated by a couple. The husband manages the food while the wife serves the customers. This bungalow-style building is also their residential with part of the area designated for restaurant.
The husband used to be a senior chef working long-term at the Imperial Hotel of Tokyo. Although only a handful of choices, every dish is thoughtfully prepared. Not to mention the taste.
We strongly recommend the lunch set (five choices) which includes the main course, bun, salad, dessert and coffee. Value for money.
When one think of soba, one will connect to Nagano Prefecture. With less than 30 minutes drive from Kiyosato, you could as well access to quality soba. Thanks to the premium water source originated from the same spot as Hakushu region, Hokuto, Yamanashi – the largest mineral water source in Japan. This explains the comparable quality those from Nagano.
Among the kitchen staff, there is a Belgian-origin young lady. During the visit of the Belgian monarchy to Japan in 2016, the King and Queen of the Belgians tasted the soba prepared by her.