Kumoba Pond is one of the largest natural ponds in Karuizawa, and is home to a variety of seasonal plants and shrubs. Naturalist and birdwatchers visit here during autumn and summer, not only for the nature, but also to admire the reflection of the color of the sky and trees from the surface of the water. There's a 20~25 minute walking course around the whole pond so you can enjoy the views from a variety of different angles. The whole pond can be seen in less than 40 minutes.
Getting there: From Tokyo Station take the Nagano Shinkansen to Karuizawa Station. About an hour. You can rent bicycles nearby the Karuizawa Station exit. The cost is about 500 yen an hour at some shops. Once there we parked our bikes then walked around and got completely absorbed in the green thickness all around us. The walking course took us along narrow dirt paths.
Just about every nature spot you visit in Tokyo, you can always see oily freshwater fish called carp. Carp or, koi, in the Japanese language is a colorful fish with a long history in Japan. People enjoy watching this fish because of its human-like facial characteristics. Often the center-piece of any shrine or temple is the carp fish. Kids and tourist fawn over its many colors and sizes.
Another thing I love is the smell of a burn pile. One of the single most identifiable smells of the Japanese backcountry is the smell of burning straw. We were surprised to see this happening near a pond..? Japanese farmers burn in order to recycle nutrients from ash back into the soil. In North America we call this swailing, which is not as common anymore.
As we continued on we came across this little Japanese Aster, or daisy, whichever you choose to call it. I say it that way because there are over 2000 different species in the daisy family, and I just can't identify them all.
There were so many trees like this all over Karuizawa. Even death was present. But it doesn't end there, because of so much living going on all around us. These little nature walks get you thinking a lot about stuff like that.
But before leaving, we had to have a nice refreshingly cold bowl of shinshu soba, Nagano's own Buckwheat noodles. Nagano soba is unique for its use of wild vegetable and homegrown wheat. Places in West Japan tend to use a lot of imported wheat from Australia whereas in other parts of Japan, no.
Of course, when visiting Nagano you have to try the local rice brew. Nagano is famed for having a variety of highly cultivated yeast molds called koji. Adding Koji is one of the three most important steps in sake production, and effect texture and aroma of a sake. The jizake we had is called カメノウミ Kame no Umi. Unfortunately, jizake like this one are not available for national distribution in Japan, so I really stress the importance here when visiting Japan, try as much of the local stuff as possible because you will not be able to get it anywhere else.
Again, good food, Jukujo, sake, and nature.
"The Soul of Japan"