Otherworldly Structure in Japan’s Magical Mountainside

THE MOUNTAIN TOWN of Karuizawa is set an hour’s educate journey northwest of Tokyo, a adventure that zooms previous the small, heartbreaking scenes of attractiveness that any traveler right here is aware of, an eternally repeating development of fragile persimmon bushes, their unlovely black branches sagging with dusty orange fruit; splintered picket torii gates, their vermilion paint bleached to a fleshy red; tin-roofed factories and squat rental structures, their patios hung with laundry.

One expects Karuizawa to feel and appear the similar as the entire different villages at the direction, however regardless of its totems of modern Japan — the tidy, utilitarian concrete educate station; the ever present bright-lit comfort retail outlets promoting ice cream and compression socks — it feels no longer of Japan, however of in other places: a horny, bourgeois commuter’s hamlet in central Europe or New England, the type of position the place a personality in a John Cheever tale may disembark on a Friday night, his grey swimsuit jacket folded over his arm.

This feeling of geographical displacement is in part because of the relative un-Japaneseness of Karuizawa’s panorama — deciduous the place a lot of the encompassing nation-state is piney, and punctuated by means of hills as an alternative of fields (there’s even a 10-trail ski slope immediately in the back of the station). Nevertheless it additionally has one thing to do with how town has selected to outline itself: A self-consciously Alpine aesthetic dominates right here, entire with cosy, peak-roofed cottages, their white stucco facades embellished with picket latticework. This can be a Jap dream of a selected roughly Western idyll, an idealized village convincingly radiating its personal, honest logo of gemutlichkeit.


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The Properties of Karuizawa

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