Alas, I jumped on the Shinkansen (bullet train) and went to see some friends in Karuizawa. The need to get some fresh air in the countryside and catch up with them, made me travel a bit during the pandemic after all. Of course, I had my mask on, we all wore them and spent time away from downtown Karuizawa which was teeming with people. Ahhh! The fresh, clean and crisp air in the countryside was oh so welcomed and Autumn was on supreme display.
There is such simple pleasure in walking around an area with almost no one, looking at the changing leaves and enjoying the nice fall weather. It does a body so good.
While walking I came upon this beautiful wedding chapel. They go all out here in Japan when designing these buildings. The caretaker who was cleaning welcomed me warmly and even opened it up for me to walk around and see inside. Kindness is beautiful.
Karuizawa is only about an hour and 20 minutes from Tokyo station on the Shinkansen. I visited in winter once and it gets lots of snow and is pretty cold because of its location. There is much to see downtown Karuizawa which we avoided because there were just too many people. We instead went for a nature walk with my friend who is living there to just enjoy hiking away from people. It was the perfect thing to do given that we were social distancing. We had the trail all to ourselves and it was wonderful.
The leaves had already fallen in many places but we still enjoyed just walking and chatting. This is actually a pretty safe thing to do at this time, it calmed some the anxiety I felt when I first decided to visit. We made our way slowly but surely up to a beautiful waterfall where we spent some time just sitting and soaking up nature.
This short trip opened my mind a bit more to what travelling responsibly during this pandemic can look like for me. It also helps that this is a country where most people are used to wearing masks. I have concerns about the distancing on the Shinkansen, so I am not going to be doing this again soon. There were no efforts to seat us in the reserved cars, in ways that facilitated social distancing and the train was at capacity. Perhaps I am hypercritical but I expected to see something out of the norm with this. Nonetheless, I am happy I took this short trip before it got colder and things possibly change, where moving around is concerned.
All in all, hiking and enjoying time in the great outdoors is perfect for social distancing and travelling safely during this pandemic. If I had a car I would do more of this.
We ended the trip by going apple picking. That was also perfect since we had the place to ourselves. When we paid to go in we got knives, a sanitised tray and hand sanitiser to use as we pick and eat delicious apples. Yum!