Certified excellence in catering to international visitors
Last updated: December 21, 2020
Travel is one of life’s great joys, but the occasional hiccup does occur. Communication issues, cultural differences, and confusion around food can add stress to an otherwise incredible trip. Through the Gunma Excellence program, the prefectural government is reducing the barriers to a smooth travel experience. Gunma Excellence certification is awarded to hotels, inns, restaurants, and other tourist facilities with an assurance of a quality experience for foreign visitors. The nearly 40 certified venues all feature foreign language support and signage, free Wi-Fi, and Western-style restrooms. The staff of each facility has taken a special seminar in catering to international visitors and, where applicable, the venues are open to consultation on meals to cater to dietary requirements.
The most common type of Gunma Excellence-certified facility is inns and hotels. Being able to fully relax at your accommodation is key to an enjoyable trip. This is particularly true in Gunma, where many accommodations include natural onsen baths and exquisite local cuisine. Gunma Excellence-certified accommodations are spread throughout the prefecture, from the transportation hub of Takasaki to tranquil hot spring resorts like Manza Onsen. Options include traditional-style ryokan inns like Kirishimaya Ryokan, Naraya, Hotel Takamatsu, and Kawaba Onsen Yutorian, all-seasons resorts such as Kusatsu Onsen Hotel Village, Minakamikogen Hotel 200, Shima Grand Hotel, Minakami Hotel Juraku, and Oze Iwakura Resort Hotel, and sleek urban hotels like Hotel Metropolitan Takasaki.
Usaburo Kokeshi produces modern takes on kokeshi, a type of traditional wooden doll. Head there to see master artisans making the dolls and even try painting your own. The artisans at Daimonya Co., Ltd. hand-craft Gunma’s famous Daruma dolls, from time-honored styles to modern takes, and guests can paint their own version. Visit Tsukiyono Vidro Park, a leading producer of handmade glass, for demonstrations and glass-making classes.
Families and fruit lovers will enjoy picking strawberries, cherries, grapes, and apples (depending on the season) at Kajitsu no Sato Harada Farm. Thrill-seekers should consider Canyons Ltd., a company that runs canyoning and whitewater rafting excursions.
Tomioka Silk Mill, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was one of the first industrialized factories built in Japan and played a vital role in the country’s modernization. For a European atmosphere, check out Lockheart Castle, an authentic Scottish castle that was dismantled and transported to Gunma, where it was rebuilt.
Sample local delicacies with the peace of mind that comes with a Gunma Excellence certification. The Yokokawa branch of Oginoya specializes in kamameshi, a dish of seasoned rice steamed with toppings such as chicken, pork, mushrooms, and konnyaku—a signature Gunma ingredient. Tofu Matsumura is a tofu specialist that uses organic soybeans. They use their house-made tofu for a wide variety of healthy, delicious dishes. For a modern take on Gunma cuisine, head to Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Cafe. Pair its rare cheesecake with coffee roasted in house, or try the popular “loco moco,” topped with an onsen-cooked egg.