“Karuizawa was formerly – up to that distant date, when primary education was established in England [ca. 1870] – a posting-station (fifty men and fifty horses kept) on the great Nakasendo, the road which runs inland from Tokyo to Kyoto, while the more frequented Tokaido links the two capitals by a route which hugs the Pacific coast.
“The inhabitants gained their living almost entirely from their services to noble travellers on the road: but when in 1868 a few young Samurai dissolved the feudal system, and so relieved the Daimios from the obligation of their periodical journeys to Yedo, and when a little later railways came, with [travel measured in] hours instead of days, Karuizawa people – like too many others in Japan just then – were altogether adrift, left to shift for themselves. Then some missionaries discovered that the site was exactly what they wanted as a summer resort, houses cheap to hire or build, service in plenty, and surroundings so primitive that they might live in a free-and-easy way, without the fear of invasion by fashionable’ tourists who would make things dear and strike a discordant note in the calm retreat.
“Thus a phoenix rose on the ruin of the irrevocable past: presently, as summer set in down below, butchers’ meat and Western ‘groceries’ came up, exhibited behind glass windows, to the amazement of the old inhabitants; then, as Western comforts grew more common, until actual cows were kept and milked, wives and children of business-men in the Ports were consigned to swell the missionary group; in ’93 the Government built the many-tunnelled Abt-rail [rack railway] track, and Karuizawa became a station on a trunk-line connecting the two seas; when the ‘Manpei Hotel’ was opened (with a signboard painted in foreign letters) and table d’hote was naturalized, the coddled tourist thought that he must have ‘a look in’ too, just to see if Asama really were as ‘active’ as they said; while quite recently even Japanese gentlemen of high degree have begun to build houses and introduce their families.
“As in so many other cases, the world followed the lead of the missionaries. Foreigners are now the raison d’etre of Karuizawa, and no echo of Feudalism haunts the hills; the former pomp of the Nakasendo – with its chronic injustice – is forgotten, and the black-eyed children of to-day barely look at the rack-rail engine being shunted on or off the crowded trains, as if it had been always so.”
– “A Tale of Karuizawa”, The Living Age, Vol. 236, Ernest Foxwell, January 1903
“There are two Karuizawas, one Kyu-Karuizawa, or ‘Old Karuizawa’, which is on the Nakasendo highway and lies very near the base of Usui and Atago ; the other, Shin-Karuizawa, or ‘New Karuizawa’, is a recent village created after the opening of the railway and is situated near Yagasaki-yama, being separated from Kyu-Karuizawa by only % m. The population of the two sections totals 1,953, divided into 597 houses, of which 178 are summer villas for both foreigners and Japanese.
“It was by Archdeacon Shaw of the S. P. G. Mission and Prof. Dixon, then of the Imperial Tokyo University, that Karuizawa as a summer resort was first introduced to the foreign public. They visited the place in 1886, and spent the summer at the houses of certain of the inhabitants. The villa built in 1888 by the Archdeacon on the top of Okatsuka was the first foreigner’s house erected here. Several other foreigners followed his example, until before long Karuizawa, which was otherwise doomed to decay, blossomed forth as a prosperous village. The grateful villagers have erected a monument in memory of the Archdeacon. Visitors to Karuizawa in 1911 numbered 6,597, i.e. 5,406 Japanese and 1,191 foreigners, and the number of days they stayed there aggregated 121,644.”
– Official Guide to Eastern Asia, Vol. III (North-Eastern Japan), Imperial Japanese Government Railways, 1914