Vegetarian's Japan Guide

The Recommended Cafes and Restaurants in Karuizawa

As one of Japan’s best highland resorts, Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture has many charms, and one of them is the delicious food and drinks served in the lovely town. The spots with a nice ambiance are the perfect places to stop by after spending a couple of hours exploring. Because cafés and restaurants are almost everywhere in Karuizawa, deciding which one to visit can be hard. Thus, we have compiled the below list of restaurants and cafes. Each has some uniqueness that differentiates itself from other competitors!

Primo fito (プリモ フィト 軽井沢駅舎店)

 A vegan-friendly restaurant conveniently located inside Shinano Railway’s Karuizawa Station is Primo fito. The Italian diner opened in 2021 has a vegan menu you can enjoy without communicating your dietary requirements. The company’s main restaurant, Trattoria Primo (トラットリア プリモ 本店), close to Old Karuizawa Ginza Street, is a stylish restaurant buried in the greens. Trattoria Primo is so popular that a queue is usually expected. Thus, Primo fito is more like a fine dining restaurant with an elegant interior and beautifully presented food, unlike most station-building restaurants that are more casual.

Ⓒ 日本素食交流會: Carol Lin

The restaurant has a relaxing and cozy ambiance. Staff are very friendly and provide top-notch service to all customers.

Ⓒ 日本素食交流會: Carol Lin

Primo fito is keen on making the dining experience equal for both vegans and meat-eaters, so whether you choose the vegan or regular menu, you will have a set menu with a couple of main pasta dishes to choose from. The five appetizers are placed inside a gift box, and each is unique. The main pasta dish is favorable and has a good portion. As for dessert, it is, again, incredible!

If you are curious about what you can order, refer to their menu HERE!

Tip: If you don’t eat pungent vegetables, such as garlic, let the staff know so they can remove it from your order.

Primo fito’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Primo fito is open from Thursday to Tuesday from:
    • 11:30 am to 2 pm (last order)
    • 5:30 am to 8 pm (last order)
  • Shinano Railway’s Karuizawa Station is just next to JR’s Karuizawa Station.

Natural Cafeína (ナチュラル カフェイーナ)

If you are after a healthy breakfast or lunch, visit Natural Cafeína. This cozy but stylish spot is child-friendly and offers amazing dishes, coffee, and black tea. Opened by Mr Yamanaka and his Brazilian wife, the café is also known as the first café in Japan to serve Acai bowls. Because Natural Cafeína has a few vegan dishes on the menu, it is also a great place to visit if you or your friends are vegan or vegetarian.

The staff here are friendly and helpful, so consult them if you are unsure what to order!

You can also refer to the cafe’s menu HERE beforehand.

Tip: There are terrace seats at the back of the restaurant.

Natural Cafeína’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Natural Cafeína is open daily from
    • 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays
    • 7 am to 5 pm on weekends and public holidays
  • The cafe is around a 10-minute walk from Karuizawa Station.

en boca Karuizawa (エンボカ軽井沢)

If you love Italian food, visit en boca Karuizawa for a wonderful lunch or dinner. It is one of the top restaurants in Karuizawa, and it serves one of the most delicious vegetable pizzas we have ever tasted! Even if you have been to their sister restaurant in Tokyo or Kyoto, we still recommend stopping by their Karuizawa restaurant for the more open and airy setting and the vaulted ceiling on the 2nd floor.

Whether you are a vegetarian or not, order a plate of roasted vegetables that comes with salt and miso dipping sauce. The vegetables are sourced locally and are just tasty! Interesting pizza flavors can also be found on their menu, so if you feel a bit adventurous, how about a plate of shiitake mushroom or lotus root pizza?

In addition, their fruity dessert pizzas are a must-order too! While there is a high chance that those dessert pizzas are sold out if you visit their restaurant in Tokyo, you should be able to try them out in Karuizawa.

Note that the pizza crusts are thick, so a plate of pasta is a better choice if you prefer a thin crust.

While it is a bit pricy to dine at en boca Karuizawa, you won’t be disappointed by the quality and the portion of the food here. Plus the staff are friendly and provide really good service!

Tips:
☛ Ensure you make a reservation through THEIR WEBSITE 2 weeks before your visit.
☛ If the restaurant is fully booked, it is still possible to be a walk-in customer.
☛ You can order pizzas in two flavors (half-half).
☛ English menu is available.

en boca Karuizawa’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • En boca Karuizawa is open daily except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays from
    • 11:30 am to 2:30 pm (last order)
    • 5 pm to 8 pm (last order)
  • The restaurant is around a 10-minute walk from Karuizawa Station.

Important:
☛ en boca only accepts elementary school students and younger children during lunchtime.
☛ Each customer has to order one drink. Also, a service fee of 5% of the total bill will be charged.

The Top Cafes on Old Karuizawa Gina Street

Old Karuizawa Ginza Street (軽井沢銀座通り) is the must-visit spot when you visit Karuizawa. The 750-meter-long street starts from the Kyū-Karuizawa Bus Stop (旧軽井沢バス停) to Nite Bridge (二手橋). Lined with long-established shops that preserve both traditional and trendy boutique stores, it is the center of Karuizawa for sightseeing. Even if you plan on just window-shopping through the bakeries, cafés, and local speciality shops, we are sure you will still have a lot of fun!

Within the many cafes on Old Karuizawa Gina Street, there are 4 that we want to bring to your attention. Please refer to our Guide to the Recommended Cafes on Old Karuizawa Gina Street. The article has a good combination of both Japanese and Western cafes (^_-)-☆.

Cafe Susu no Ne (旧軽井沢Cafe涼の音)

Walking around Karuizawa, you might start to imagine a life of owning a villa in this wonderful town. While this isn’t practical for most of us, you can visit Cafe Susu no Ne. This national tangible cultural property was a private villa of an American diplomat, Edwin O. Reischauer. Because the furnishings were left as they were, and only the furniture was repaired, it is a space for a taste of the life of the Westerners in the last century.

The café is surrounded by greenery. The fresh green moss-covered garden is just gorgeous to adorn with a cup of tea. In the warmer months, the sound of wind chimes and bird chirps is the best setting to enjoy summertime in Japan. If you are lucky, you might spot a few wild squirrels!

Because it used to be a villa, the ambiance in Café Susu no Ne is like a holiday house in Western countries. When the weather is cold, listening to the crackling sound from the firewood stove is just calming.

The chestnut-colored building was originally an inn in the early Meiji period, so it was built around the same time as Alexander Croft Shaw House (ショーハウス記念館). It was then renovated and relocated to its current position in 1927. The house was used as Swedish legation towards the end of World War II. So it wasn’t until after the war that Café Susu no Ne became a villa.

Tips:
☛ Make a reservation for the terrace or the sofa seats by the courtyard window. They are very popular.
☛ The sunflower seeds in a jar are for the birds who visit the cafe.
☛ If the water jar is marked with “犬用”, it is for dogs.
☛ You can also reserve French Toast, a very popular dish which is usually sold out by lunchtime. The apple tarts are really nice too.
☛ Check with the staff if the coffee refill service is still free.
☛ The café also has a small bicycle parking space.

Important: Café Susu no Ne doesn’t have savory vegetarian light meal options.

Cafe Susu no Ne’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Café Susu no Ne is an 8-minute walk from the bus stop, Kyu-Karuizawa (旧軽井沢).

Tip: The café can be hard to find. You can use Murō Saisei Commemorative House (室生犀星記念館) as a landmark.

Sajilo Cafe Forest (サジロカフェ・フォレスト)

If you like curry or spices, visit Sajilo Cafe Forest, close to Karuizawa’s best gelato shop, L’ibisco! Following the alley from Old Karuizawa Ginza Street, you will soon see a cute white house in the leafy area. Sajilo means cozy in Nepalese. While it doesn’t have a typical curry house look, you will surely have a pleasant time here!

As soon as you open the door, you will be welcomed by the pleasant aroma of various spices and herbs the shop uses and sells. Whether the ample sunshine from the windows during the day or the dim lighting at night, both are perfect for Sajilo Cafe Forest’s simple but elegant interior and the antique furniture bought from France. While the owner Neel was born in Nepal, he is passionate about France that he travels there every year and brings back more and more items!

Sajilo Cafe specializes in Nepalese and Indian cuisine. Apparently, there are 36 different types of spices added to their curry! Slowly simmered with vegetables for a day, the resulting curry is very smooth. The lunch menu consists of a few set courses that include a different number of curry flavors and side dishes. After deciding which set menu to go with, you then decide on the curry flavors and the spicy level.

If you love cheese, remember to order the cheese naan. While the size isn’t big, it is filled with cheese! So either pay a little extra to change the ordinary naan or rice to the cheese naan or order it as a side!

Do you know to the Nepalese, curry isn’t a dish’s name? In Nepal, each curry’s flavor is a different dish with its own name.

Sajilo Cafe Forest’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Sajilo Cafe Forest is a 25-minute walk from Karuizawa Station.
  • You can also take a bus and get off at Kyū Karuizawa (旧軽井沢). The café is then a 5 to 10-minute walk.
  • Sajilo Café Forest is open from
    • 11 am to 3 pm and 5 pm to 10 pm on weekdays
    • 11 am to 10 pm on weekends and public holidays

Maruyama Coffee Karuizawa Main Store (丸山珈琲・軽井沢本店)

Opposite Bon Okawa Karuizawa Chocolate Factory, on the other side of the bullet train track, there is a cafe you must visit if you are a coffee person. In fact, you might have already visited one of the coffee chain’s stores in Tokyo! Opened in 1991, Maruyama Coffee (丸山珈琲) is infamous for its high-quality coffee, but that isn’t the only charm at their first and main store in Karuizawa.

The coffee beans carefully selected and purchased from overseas farms are roasted in-house before they are ground for coffee brewing. This is why some find it hard to find another cup of equally good tasted coffee elsewhere. And the main store in Karuizawa is definitely one of the best cafés in the town!

For more information on what to expect on the day, refer to our Maruyama Coffee Karuizawa Main Store!

The Vegan/Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants in Naka-Karuizawa

Compared to the neighborhood around Karuizawa Station, the Naka-Karuizawa area is less commercialized, so you might be worried about not being able to find vegetarian/vegan food there. Surprisingly, there are a couple of good options in Naka-Karuizawa. Although getting to them requires a degree of effort as they aren’t located close to the train station, the food served in each restaurant is amazing!

For more information, refer to our article on Naka-Karuizawa’s Vegan/Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants!

Click the photo for information about Naka-Karuizawa’s vegan/vegetarian-friendly restaurants!

Discover Other Fascinating Attractions Karuizawa

Harunire-Terrace-Karuizawa-Umbrella-Sky-Karuizawa-Nagano-Japan
Click the photo for all the amazing attractions in Karuizawa!

After resting at one of Karuizawa’s cafes or restaurants, it is time to explore only must-visit spots in Japan’s best highland resort, Karuizawa. The town has a couple of amazing natural spots. In addition, the traditional township has several Western-style villas, amazingly designed churches, and unique cafes and restaurants awaiting your visit.

So refer to our Guide to Karuizawa article for more attractions to include in your itinerary!