Gunma prefecture in northernKanto has a number of tourist attractions: there are about 100 onsen includingKusatsu, one of Japan’s top three locations for hot spring water and Minakami—aparadise for onsen lovers. It takes only a few hours from Tokyo if you takeShinkansen or limited express train and it is just right for a short weekendtrip.
The Tone River with thelargest basin in Japan is utilized as a source of water supply for the Tokyometropolitan area. In Okutone, where is the headstream of the river, you canenjoy the vast beautiful nature such as primary forest and Oze, a popularhiking spot. This area is located high above sea level and cool even in summerthat makes it a crowd-pleasing summer resort.
Moreover, Gunma boasts plenty brand-namespring water and the prefecture is known as a production of various vegetables andwheat. There are also favored local foods: udon noodls and yaki-manju(roasted sweet buns). For the summer, howabout visiting such exciting Gunma?
Trip to Kusatsu and Minakami Onsen
Kusatsu is an internationally famous onsen whose water is said to “cure everything butlove sickness” in the old folk song. Nestled in the foothills of the MountShirane in the northwest of Gunma prefecture, this onsen has the Japan’s largestamount of natural flowing hot spring water. In the Meiji period, Dr. Baelz, a Germanmedical doctor, studied Kusatsu’s strong acidic spring water and its therapeuticbathing method. He was the one who introduced the onsen to the world as a worldclass spa resort district.
The water of Kusatsu Onsen ischaracterized by strongly-acid and high-temperature. Approximately 170 hotelsand traditional ryokans welcome visitors from home and abroad. It would be funto watch “yu-momi,” a method of cooling down hot spring water by stirring thewater with large wooden paddles. The process is accompanied by the singing of alocal folk song. The traditional song sung during the yu-momi work is a touristattraction.
Minakami, the bastion of the ToneRiver, is another famous onsen town that houses different high-end hot springs.Visitors can enjoy a sightseeing from a carriage and adventurous outdooractivities including whitewater rafting, canyoning and bungee jumping. There isalso a trail that walkers will find apicturesque gorge.
Try various local taste
Gunma has a variety of land features that include mountains, plateaus, plains and canyons. There is a temperature difference throughout the year and these conditions makes it a “Kingdom of the Fruit,” where produces varieties of fruit that have been uniquely developed and are produced only in Gunma. You can enjoy delicious fruits all year long such as sweet grape, apple, Japanese pear, and peach.
Gunma leads wheat production, too. There is a tradition that farmers have treated their guests with handmade udon noodles for a long time. Appetizing udon noodles with elastic texture can be tried at various locations in the prefecture.
You don’t want to miss local cuisines. Yaki-manju is a excellent dating back more than 150 years. This is a small dumplings, which are skewered, daubed with a sweet-savory miso-based sauce, then grilled over hot charcoal. In recent years, many restaurants serve pizzas and breads using good wheats. Popular local foods include their original “Ota Yakisoba” and “Takasaki Pasta.”
Meet with celebrated history and culture
Gunma has outstandingly numerous ancient tombs which the number is assumed to be 10,000. If you like history, Sangenya remains and Watanuki Kannon-yama tombs are recommended.
Tomioka Silk Mill, Japan’s oldest modern model silk reeling factory, is another attraction. It was established in 1872 to introduce modern machine silk reeling and now people visit to know its footsteps.
Since its locations is not far from Tokyo, Gunma was influenced by Edo culture in the Edo period. Troupe of touring actors entertained the people and in Shibukawa city, there is a unique Kabuki stage with original feature.
Ride a steam locomotive
Steam locomotives used to connect between Gunma and Nagno prefectures. Today, Special event trains such as the SL Minakami and the SL/DL Retro Usui also travel around the Gunma area for a limited time only in summer. Enjoy “Dekoichi” trains that were manufactured most in Japan in old days.
From Tokyo to Takasaki,
50 minutes by Shinkansen.
80 minutes to Jomo-Kogen Station.
From Ueno to Minakami,
2 hours and 20 minutes by limited express.
2 hours and 30 minutes to Naganohara Kusatsuguchi Station.
* We will update more detailed Gunma report in WAttention Tokyo’s comming issue. Don’t miss it!