About Gunma

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About Gunma

Gunma is a mountainous prefecture in the center of Japan, located to the northwest of Tokyo. The area is known for its onsen resorts, skiing and whitewater rafting, and an abundance of nature. Charming onsen towns surrounded by mountains, marshlands, and clear lakes are ideal for those seeking outdoor adventure, while small cities rich in tradition let you immerse yourself in Japanese culture. Gunma is perfectly positioned for an easy getaway from Tokyo, but longer stays are even more rewarding.

Highlights

Gunma’s highlights center around the area’s natural landscape. Perhaps its most significant appeal is the abundance of warm, soothing onsen that bubble up across the prefecture. Try onsen-hopping from major onsen destinations, like Kusatsu and Ikaho, to tiny, remote hot springs nestled on mountainsides and in valleys. Gunma’s lofty peaks provide superb hiking in warm months and powder snow that attracts ski enthusiasts from around the world.

Where is Gunma?

Gunma is very close to Tokyo. Takasaki, the prefectural capital, is just 45 minutes by the frequently running shinkansen (bullet train). Gunma is in the geographic center of the country, and the city of Shibukawa is nicknamed the “navel of Japan.”

Nature & Outdoors

Gunma’s towering peaks, dramatic gorges, and spectacular lakes create a haven for outdoor activities. You can explore Gunma in every season: hiking, rafting, canoeing, and canyoning in warmer months or skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and ice fishing in winter. One of the best ways to enjoy Gunma’s beauty is from the comfort of an outdoor onsen bath. Particularly scenic outdoor baths include the riverside public bath at Takaragawa Onsen, the mountainside baths at Manza Onsen, and the springs at Sainokawara Park, located in a lush valley.

Onsen (Hot Springs)

Hot spring bathing is an important part of Japanese culture, and Gunma is particularly blessed with onsen resorts. From large onsen towns, like Kusatsu, Minakami, and Ikaho to tiny, hidden onsen, like Kirizumi Onsen, Kuni no Sato, and Hoshi Onsen. Bathe in wooden onsen baths within a national park, enjoy open-air bathing along a scenic riverside or opt for a private onsen experience in a traditional ryokan inn. Warming, cultural relaxing, and mineral-rich onsen make a core part of many people’s Gunma getaway.

History & Culture

Gunma has a long and proud history as one of Japan’s most important silk-producing areas. Silk brocade from Kiryu dates back 1,300 years, while Tomioka Silk Mill played a pivotal role in Japan’s industrial revolution. Gunma is also the home of Daruma dolls, handmade wishing dolls that originated hundreds of years ago in Takasaki. There are workshops where you can try making your own. You can also make sosaku kokeshi, modern versions of traditional wooden kokeshi dolls. Art galleries and craft workshops across the prefecture showcase Gunma’s heritage and cement its position as a cultural hub in Japan.

Gunma’s onsen towns are steeped in history, too. Ikaho is mentioned in Japan’s oldest surviving collection of poems, Manyoshu, which was compiled in the 8th century. Many of Gunma’s onsen have been hailed for their health-boosting properties, including Kusatsu, which has been popular since the Edo period (1603–1868).

Seasons

Gunma blooms with cherry blossoms and a range of other flowers. As the snow melts away, the Tone River flows faster, making for thrilling whitewater rafting conditions. The fair weather is perfect for hiking, bungee jumping, and other forms of outdoor adventure. Relax after these activities with a dip in an onsen.

Main Destinations of Gunma

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