Small-city charm among natural attractions
Last updated: July 29, 2021
Gunma’s capital Maebashi has cultural attractions and small-city charm backdropped by mountains. Hike Mt. Akagi before relaxing in Maebashi's cafes, discovering its arts scene, and sampling local pork dishes.
Maebashi is within easy reach of Tokyo. The shinkansen runs throughout the day to Takasaki, and the ride takes about 50 minutes. From there, Maebashi is about 15 minutes on the JR Ryomo Line. The city is a convenient base for your Gunma adventure or a destination in its own right.
Nature is never far away in Maebashi. The fast-flowing Tone River winds through the city, flower gardens dot the area, and Mt. Akagi is visible in the distance.
Take the afternoon to explore Maebashi on foot. Arts Maebashi is a stylish cafe and shop selling art and cute trinkets by creators from across Japan. Nearby, nostalgic shops sit side-by-side with modern boutiques on Chuo-dori, the main shopping street. Stroll along the Hirose River that runs through the city to explore the cafes and boutiques that dot its path.
Overlooking the river is Rinkokaku, a complex of three beautiful wooden buildings, the oldest of which dates back to 1884. The surrounding traditional-style garden adds to the classic feel.
A ten-minute drive north along the river is Shikishima Park Kadokura Techno Rose Garden. During the Spring Rose Garden Festival and the Autumn Rose Garden Festival, the park’s roughly 7,000 roses of approximately 600 different species are illuminated. Visit this romantic spot just before sunset to see the roses by day, then lit up as it gets dark.
There are several Western-style hotels dotted around Maebashi. Choose a comfortable hotel where you can rest and recharge for the following day.
Get an early start for a half-day of hiking. Driving to the Akagi Visitor Center from central Maebashi takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Alternatively, you can take a combination of local buses. Start the hike at the Mt. Kurobi Trailhead, a 20-minute walk away. The trip up Mt. Kurobi (1,828 m), Mt. Akagi’s tallest peak, is relatively beginner-friendly and takes around 90 minutes.
Mt. Akagi’s peaks surround Lake Onuma, a deep-blue caldera lake. Rent a boat to explore the lake and visit Akagi-jinja Shrine, a vermillion shrine on a half-island on the shore.
To extend your stay here, camp at the lakeshore campgrounds or stay in one of the inns around the lake. To get back to central Maebashi, hike back down the Akagi Visitor Center, or take a bus back to Maebashi Station.
Wind down by feasting on a Maebashi specialty: pork. The area produces lots of high-quality pork, and its popularity is evident–many restaurants have a local pork dish. Try it in Japanese dishes like stews, katsu, ramen, hot pot, and curry, or in a variety of international and creative preparations.
Kaneko Seeds Gunma Flower Park is a 35-minute drive from the center of Maebashi. Take a relaxed walk around its serene gardens filled with plants from around the world. Its English and Japanese gardens are always beautiful, but the seasonally changing main display steals the show—especially in spring when various colors of tulips create a colorful carpet.