Discover a natural playground for the whole family
Last updated: December 21, 2020
Gunma is the perfect destination for family fun and fresh air. The region has beautiful mountain hiking trails, world-class ski resorts, exciting rivers and gorges, historic castle towns, and an abundance of museums. There are many kids’ activities that parents will enjoy too. Whether you are looking for a wild adventure or a gentle animal encounter, there’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy. The kids will be talking about your Gunma holiday for years to come.
Gunma’s mountains and valleys offer respite from Japan’s heat and humidity in summer. Head to Minakami for fun in the water. Families can enjoy a guided tour by canoe or kayak among the natural scenery and clear waterways of the Minakami area, or get wet and wild with a canyoning experience. There are options for everyone from beginners to seasoned thrill-seekers. Older kids will love to slip, slide, and float down a mountain stream. Some local tour companies have special courses for younger kids, and English-speaking guides.
In winter, Gunma is the go-to destination for powder hounds. Minakami Kogen Ski Resort is ideal for all ages, with a kids’ park and activities for non-skiers like snow rafting and sledding. At ski resorts such as Oze-Iwakura Ski Resort, you can take ski lessons in English if you make a reservation in advance. You can rent everything you need to enjoy a day in the snow.
The Gunma Safari Park offers a full day out for the whole family. Drive your car or take a special bus around the park to see 100 species of animals—including elephants, rhinos, lions, white tigers, bears, and giraffes. There are opportunities to feed larger animals like lions from the safety of the bus and to pet and feed farmyard animals in the park’s Walking Safari Zone. An adjoining theme park has all the classic rides, including a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, and safari train.
Ikaho Green Bokujo is a farm-themed amusement park in the foothills of Mt. Haruna, near Ikaho Onsen. Kids can enjoy horse rides and petting sheep, goats, and rabbits. Located on the same spacious grounds, Hara Museum ARC is a contemporary art museum with plenty of room to roam. The permanent outdoor exhibition includes a giant version of Andy Warhol’s soup can. Its on-site eatery, Cafe d’Art, features colorful cakes inspired by artists, which will appeal to adults and kids alike.
Experience traditional country life at Takuminosato, a collection of four villages near Minakami forest. Wander among the rural houses, rice fields, and orchards, and try craft workshops such as washi papermaking, dyeing, weaving, and soba making. The villages also host fruit-picking experiences. There are restaurants to suit all tastes, and spacious picnic areas.
Head to Castle Town Obata and step back in time to the Sengoku period in the 15th and 16th centuries, when the Obata family ruled the area from their namesake castle. The charming town is ideal for strolling, with picturesque waterways and preserved samurai residences. Families can enjoy the beautiful scenery of Rakusan-en, a traditional garden with carp ponds, bridges, and tea houses to explore. During the town’s cherry blossom festival in early April, residents in samurai armor parade along the tree-lined streets of Obata, from Rakusan-en to Kanra Sogo Koen Park, culminating in a ceremony to welcome the warriors, open-air tea ceremonies, taiko drum performances, and matchlock gun demonstrations.
Enjoy lush blooms every season at Kaneko Seeds Gunma Flower Park, which features an English garden, a Japanese garden, and a rock garden. The greenhouses feature plant life from various tropical countries. The colorful displays of cacti and succulents are especially popular with kids. The park has a play area with slides, mazes, a jungle gym, and an obstacle course. In summer, there is a splash pool. Shady picnic areas are ideal for a family break, or try the park’s casual restaurants, which offer kids’ meals. Alternatively, AEON Mall in Ota, a 45 minutes drive away has a food court with options to satisfy the whole family, as well as plenty of shopping options.
In the summer months, Tambara’s slopes are blanketed with flowers. The Tambara Lavender Park specializes in lavender. Over 50,000 lavender plants bloom in summer, along with other flower varieties, including sunflowers and hydrangeas. The purple lavender-flavored ice cream is a must-try on a summer’s day. The park’s ski lift provides a fun way to access the upper reaches. Remember your trip to the park with souvenirs of lavender soap and cosmetics.
There are farms across Gunma where you can pick and eat fruit in different seasons. Strawberries are grown at just the right height for kids of all ages to pick, and come into season from early winter through early spring. Kajitsu no Sato Harada Farm in Numata is a popular strawberry farm that also grows cherries, peaches, grapes, and apples. Its farm shop sells treats made from the farm’s fruits, including cake, juice, and pie.