A five-bedroom home dating from the 1920s is listed for sale in one of Karuizawa’s most affluent and historic neighborhoods.
The home was built in 1923. Prior to the war it was purchased by a kimono fabric dealer from Nihonbashi, Tokyo, as a holiday home and has been held by the same family ever since. The family fled here in WWII to escape air raids. In 1976 it was featured in the movie The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu). In 2018 it received a Karuizawa Blue Plaque under the town’s recently-introduced heritage recognition scheme.
Downstairs, there is a formal dining, living, kitchen, bedroom, maid room, and family bathroom, while upstairs has four bedrooms and three balconies. The living room has the original stone fireplace. Furnishings costing up to 20 million Yen are to be included. The kitchen, bathroom and plumbing was replaced in 2010, foundation work done in 2019, and exterior and interior work carried out in mid-2020.
It sits on around 1,000 sqm of land fronting onto Manpei Street and is a 25-minute walk or a 3-minute drive north of Karuizawa Station. It’s also an 8-minute walk from the Karuizawa Ginza Shopping Street. This part of Karuizawa is the historic old money neighborhood where the wealthy owned holiday homes before the war. That legacy continues to this day.
The property is advertised for 160 million Yen. Karuizawa is one of the few regions where land values performed relatively well in 2020, in spite of the pandemic. This may be due to its popularity as a safe escape from crowded urban areas, along with the fact that it does not rely heavily on foreign tourists. A commercial site just down the road fronting onto the main street saw an 8.63% increase in value over the 12 months to July 2020, after a 3.73% rise in 2019.
Karuizawa is a popular and wealthy summer resort area just 70 minutes by bullet train from Tokyo. In the Edo period it was a small town with lodgings for travellers passing by alongside the Nakasendo (Central Mountain Route) which connected Tokyo and Kyoto. It wasn’t until two foreigners, Canadian missionary Alexander Shaw, and English professor James Dixon, wrote about the town after visiting in 1886 that it drew attention as a holiday destination. Shaw built his own holiday home in the area, and within a few years 20 foreigners had moved to the area.
Two years later Karuizawa Station went into service with the opening of horse-drawn carriageway connecting Karuizawa to Yokogawa Station in Gunma Prefecture. Trains were eventually introduced, and the Shinkansen train line opened in 1997.
The very first vacation home to be built for a Japanese person was the Hatta Residence built in 1893 for naval captain Yujiro Hatta. The early residents of the town included foreign diplomats and businessmen, Japanese nobles, politicians and wealthy industrialists.
In 1894, the Kameya Hotel (later renamed as the Mampei Hotel) opened, followed by the Mikasa Hotel in 1906. By 1903 there were already over 100 holiday villas. In the 1960s, this number had swelled to over 4,000 homes, and by the late 1980s there were over 10,000 homes in the town.
During the forced evacuation of foreigners in the early 1940s, many embassies and foreign residents relocated to Karuizawa.
When it received its designation as a town in 1923 it had a population of 5,000 residents. In 2019 the town’s population was around 19,000. This doesn’t include the many who keep holiday homes here.
Notable past and current residents and holiday guests:
- The Imperial Family
- Robert Guillain (1908-1998), French journalist and author
- John Lennon who spent summers with his family just up the road at the Mampei Hotel
- Yoshimura Junzo, architect
- Eloise Cunningham, musician
How you can help
Sometimes historic and culturally valuable homes similar to this are available for purchase. They usually come with a high price tag due to the relatively large and valuable land they sit on, and may require costly repairs and upgrades at the buyer’s expense. If you are interested in preserving a piece of Japan’s history, please let us know. Homes of this calibre are often not advertised publicly, with information only provided to selected clients on a need-to-know basis.
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