International Village, Nojiri-ko (Lake Nojiri), Nagano Prefecture.

1950sAmusements & RecreationsKaruizawa-NaganoReligious
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“Be it said at once, however, that Nojiri is for the house-owner or tenant rather than the visitor, for there are no hotels, and unless a cottage is available, there is no accommodation.

“Nojiri and Karuizawa are supposed to maintain a friendly rivalry, the habitues of the two places vigorously supporting the claims of the one against the other. Thus Nojiri glories in its lake, which gives it many of the advantages of the seaside, while Karuizawa has only a swimming pool.

“… Nojiri is in the backwoods, and proud of it – ‘far in a wild, unknown to public view’ – its inhabitants return to nature, and a enjoy a seasonal submergence.

“The fact is that Nojiri is unsurpassed as a holiday centre for those who wish to pass a few weeks in the midst of unspoiled country, finding their active pleasures in swimming, boating, and hiking.

“Karuizawa and Nojiri”, Travels in Japan, Vol. 1 No. 2, 1935

Lake Nojiri, c. 1955.

Lake Nojiri, c. 1955, looking toward Mount Myoko. Dockage of the International Village [gaijin-mura] can be seen at left and the boathouse at center.

“When summer came we took the train through the central part of Japan with its many tunnels to reach what became a beloved Shangrila. Lake Nojiri offered everything you could ask of a vacation spot: a beautiful lake for swimming and sailing, mountains to climb, tennis courts, and even a nine-hole golf course! In addition was the opportunity to worship with and get to know many other Japan missionaries of many nationalities. The children loved it and amused the adults the way they communicated in their common language – Japanese.

Lake Nojiri, c. 1930.

Two lake residents at the Gaijin mura (Foreign Village) dock, Lake Nojiri, c. 1930.

“There was a Nojiri Lake Association that had legal ownership of the land. Individual lots were assigned to families and individuals. There was one vote in the annual meeting for each lot. When lot ‘owner’ members were away their cottages were available for renters who paid rent to the owners and residence fees to the association. The income from fees enabled the association to maintain the roads and common facilities, and the activity program.

“… When we first went to Lake Nojiri, the International Village was like an island of affluence in a sea of poverty. But, as the Japanese economy recovered from the war, the scales tipped until we became an island of poverty in a sea of affluence.”

My Three Worlds, by Alden Matthews, 2007

Lake Nojiri, c. 1940. Elevated view of the International Village (left) and Mt. Myoko in the distance.

Lake Nojiri, c. 1940. Elevated view of the International Village (left), its rustic, primitive cabins spread out on the hillside under the forest canopy, and Mt. Myoko in the distance.

“The lake lies at the foot of Mts. Myoko and Kurohime [about 12 mi. north of Nagano], and measures 8.4 mi. in circumference. It provides good fishing for salmon-trout and carp, swimming in summer and skating in winter. Lake Nojiri came into prominence in 1921 through the efforts of the Nojiri Lake Association, which bought land on the lake shore for the establishment of a foreign summer resort.”

Japan: The Official Guide, Japan Travel Bureau, 1951

View of Mt. Myoko, Lake Nojiri, c. 1930. At lower-left is the Nojiri Lake Association boathouse and long dock; at right-center is the nearby village of Shinanomachi.

[From the postcard reverse above:] “Dear Pauline:

“I thot you might like this green card? It’s a very good picture of our lovliest mountain – and my cottage is back above + to the left of the birch tree. Do wish you could see the place! I am getting quite a good rest this summer. Please ask Cara to show you her letter. Much love to all. Hastily, Isabella”

Sailing offshore from Gaijin mura, Lake Nojiri, 1953. Reverse caption: “Lake Nojiri. The international summer resort in the suburbs of Nagano.”

“Arriving in Japan in 1924 we left the boat at Yokohama and went right to Karuizawa. There we heard conflicting stories regarding Nojiri. One was that it was the new resort on a lake and prices were much lower than in Karuizawa.

“In fact it was almost impossible to buy in Karuizawa which was full of aristocrats; but Nojiri was a place to relax. On the other hand Karuizawa saw no mud regardless of the rain while Nojiri was mud when it rained and dust when it didn’t, and both black. We were advised to visit Nojiri for a day or two but not buy in for coming seasons because of no conferences and no parties.

“We went, we saw and were conquered by one main fact: Everybody dressed as they pleased and there were very few pink teas. They still had a $40,000 debt to pay; but they all worked together even to trying to run a cooperative store. It was the last summer for us at Karuizawa.”

– Reminiscence by Lardner W. Moore, from the Nojiri Yearbook 1968

Cabin map of the Nojiri Lake Association, Lake Nojiri, 1929.

Cabin map of the Nojiri Lake Association, Lake Nojiri, 1929.

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