When Archdeacon A. C. Shaw, an English prelate, built his summer villa here in 1886 at the foot of Mt. Asama in southeastern Nagano Prefecture, he sparked the interest of fashionable, affluent Tokyoites, who soon made it their preferred summer destination. Some became patrons of the arts, which led to the opening of galleries and art museums. Pamphlets on current exhibitions are at the tourist office.
Emperor Akihito met the Empress Michiko on a tennis court here in the 1950s. Two decades later John Lennon and Yoko Ono lolled at her family's besso (summer house) and the Mampei Hotel. In the Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza, near the Karuizawa train station, more than 500 branches of trendy boutiques sell the same goods as their flagship stores in Tokyo.