Plan for the day
Last evening while reviewing our next day itinerary we made some changes. In our original plan we had an optional item which was a second visit to Ashikaga Flower Park in the morning. This was dropped as half of the wisteria flowers in the park were passed their best and in the daylight their slightly wilted forms would be obvious. The garden actually looked better at night under artificial lighting then in the daylight. So a return visit to the park in the morning would not be needed.
We would start the day with a visit to Shiraito Falls near Karuizawa. In the afternoon we would visit Karuizawa Stone Church in replacement of Karuizawa Natural Wild Bird Forest as Yat Thong thought that bird watching could be a waste of time as possible bird sightings would be rare.
We should be able to finish all the sightseeing early today, by about 3 pm, which meant we could travel further south before we settling down for the night. So last night I cancelled our hotel booking at Saku city and looked for a new one at Suwa City.
Shiraito Falls was nice and Karuizawa Stone Church was very unique and interesting. Lunch was nostagic while dinner was plain. Chisun Inn hotel at Suwa was refreshing and inexpensive.
We left our hotel at about 9 am and started our 103 km journey (2 hr drive) to Shiraito Fall. For the first part of the journey we took the tolled road and for the second half we drove the normal road which was through villages and towns. After driving for about an hour we were getting very bored and restless so when we saw a row of shopping outlets we found an excuse to stop and explore.
We went into a “DIY store” and had a lot of fun looking at the products. This was a huge store and it sold all sorts of daily-use products.
I found Japanese designed and created many products with “making life more convenience” in mind. These were not necessary expensive and complex products but simple small products that one could use day to day.
I bought several items, one of which was a green tumbler carrier which was just right for my hot tumbler. Its thick material would form a good insulation layer and it had a loop for holding. On our oversea trips we always brought along a hot water tumbler to hold coffee to spice up our long driving journey. What I always needed was a tight fitting carrier.
After the DIY store we went next door to a “market” to buy some dried food, soba noodles and soup condiments. The price of the stuffs were cheap and reasonable as these outlet shops were meant for locals unlike those on the tolled highway which was meant for visitors.
It was a refreshing one and a half hour break before we continued our drive to Shiraito Falls. We reached Shiraito Falls slightly past noon. The Falls was located at the end of a short road that branched out from Sharaito Highway. The highway was not a huge road but a two lanes country road and at the branch there was a row of shops and car park lots. We parked our car (no parking charges) and walked up the branch road.
The branch road was closed to traffic, it was only 200 metres long and ran beside a stream of fast flowing water. It was the stream that drained water from the falls.
Shiraito Falls was a very interesting waterfall. Most waterfalls were the result of rivers falling off some high cliffs. In this case there was no river before this Falls. In fact the Falls became the spring head of Yakawa Rivers. The river that we saw earlier when we walked up the road.
Shiraito Falls was 3 metres high and 70 metres wide, it started near the base of Mt Asama where water seeped out from the side of the hill.
The water came from the rainfalls that fell over Mt Asama, this water penetrated underground and took about 6 years to emerge at the top of Shiraito Falls. The cascading water looked like a veil of white silky threads.
Lunch at Kastanie Rotisserie
After Shiraito Falls we drove back into Karuizawa town (about 10 km) and stopped by Kastanie Rotisserie for lunch. We found a parking lot just at the side of the restaurant. Parking was free of charge. We had eaten at Kostanie Rotisserie in 2013 during our Japan Autumn trip. We liked its food and atmosphere so since we were nearby we dropped in for lunch.
We ended up sitting at the same table and ordering the same exact food (roast chicken, pizza and cafe latte) that we did in November 2013. After many days of Japanese food, western/Italian food was a good change.
The stone church was another attraction of Karuizawa. I was not too sure if this attraction was worth visiting as it was a man made structure built in 1988, designed by Kendrick Kellogg an American architect. Since we had the time and the stone church was only a short distance from the restaurant we drove over there after lunch.
We drove about 6 km and arrived at Bleston Court Hotel which was just before the Stone Church. We were not too sure where to park our car and a hotel staff pointed us to a car park further down the road. It was a huge car park but at this time of the year the place was deserted.
A short walk from the car park, brought us to the church. From the outside of the church, it looked like many pieces of big stone plates stacked one against another from the smallest the the largest.
We walked through the first arch and into the church. The wall of the church was made up of rectangular stones stacked up. The gaps in between the plates were louvre glass windows which let in the sunlight. Admission into the church was free of charge unfortunately photography inside the church was not allowed.
From the outside one would not expect such a beautiful and serene interior. It was certainly a bridal couple’s dream of a perfect wedding pedestal. I would love to capture the beauty of the place in my camera, unfortunately there was a female attendant that was keeping a close eye on us so we left without taking a single shot. Luckily we were able to get a brochure featuring the church unique architecture so I ended up taking photo of the brochure.
Top view of Stone Church (as taken from brochure)
They was a link way between the church and the Hotel, Bleston Court completed with reception and rest aread. It was a great idea to have the Hotel and Church side by side as it would be more convenient to host a wedding with hotel services for the bridal couple and their guests.
Accommodation for the night
Our hotel for the night was Chisun Inn Suwa IC. This hotel was booked last evening when we decided to make some changes to our itinerary. Instead of staying at Saku city we stayed further south at Suwa city. I had to cancel our booking with Toyoko Inn at Saku city. It was fantastic that cancellation of room booking at Toyoko Inn could be done without penalty as long as the cancellation was done before 4 pm on the day of check in. This was one of the advantages of being a member of the Toyoko Inn club!
From the stone church to Suwa Interchange it took us about two hours of driving. The weather had turned miserable, drizzling since 5.30 pm. By the time we reached the hotel an hour later the drizzling still had not stopped. Luckily we did not had to go far when we left the hotel later in search for dinner. There was a Mac Donald just in front of the hotel before an intersection.
Chisun Inn was a very pleasant hotel. Its double room was smaller than that of Toyoko Inn but its furnishing was more modern After staying so many nights at Toyoko Inn rooms, Chisun room deco looked refreshing. The room cost was ¥7600 with breakfast and free parking. So on the whole we saved about ¥600.