Discover the wildlife that inhabits Gunma
Last updated: December 21, 2020
Gunma is covered in mountains and dotted with untouched marshland, wild rivers, and serene lakes. Rich nature makes the prefecture an idyllic place to connect with the environment and spot species of flora and fauna native to Japan. Three national parks—Oze, Joshin'etsukogen, and Nikko—lie partly in Gunma, and they make a great starting point for discovering Gunma’s plants and wildlife.
The Oze kohone (Nuphar pumilum var. ozeense) is an aquatic plant similar to a water lily. It is endemic to Japan and named after Oze National Park. Their small yellow flowers with a red center burst open in ponds across the marshland between July and August. Walk along the elevated boardwalks within the park, where alpine flowers bloom throughout summer, too. The park’s wetlands are home to species such as Japanese wood poppies, hare’s tail cottongrass, and daylilies—bright yellow flowers that only bloom for a day. They emerge in July and are one of the most popular sights in the park.
The Chatsubomi Moss Park near Kusatsu is named after the green, velvety moss that covers the rocks in the area. Highly acidic water emerges from a hot spring in the area, creating the perfect conditions for this rare moss species to thrive. This park is one of the few places in Japan with chatsubomi moss and is one of the largest moss communities in East Asia.
Yoshigadaira is a large wetland at an altitude of 1,832 meters, in the foothills of Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane. This beautiful expanse of wilderness is the highest known breeding ground for the forest green tree frog (Rhacophorus arboreus), endemic to Japan. In June, these brown-speckled green frogs can be found near the wetland’s ponds. You may hear males calling out for a mate or see females laying eggs in grasses near the water.
Gunma’s mountains are an excellent place to see signs of mammals. One of the area’s most distinctive-looking species is the Japanese serow (Capricornis crispus), a goat-antelope that roams Yoshigadaira Wetlands and mountains across the prefecture. Sika deer (Cervus nippon) are a common sight in forests across Japan, including in Gunma. Stags, with their large antlers, are particularly impressive. Keep an eye out for tanuki (Japanese raccoon dogs) and Japanese stoats, too.
Asiatic black bears live throughout Gunma and, on rare occasions, have even been known to venture into the cities when foraging for food. They try to keep out of the way of humans, but encounters do happen. It’s a good idea to carry a bear bell while hiking to let them know you’re there, so they keep their distance.
Yoshigadaira Wetlands are a good bet for birders looking to spot new species. There are 62 bird species known to inhabit these wetlands, including osprey, golden eagles, and mountain hawk eagles soaring at high elevations. The area is protected under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation of wetlands, especially those that are a waterfowl habitat. On the other side of Gunma, you can see Mandarin ducks, mallards, and Oriental ibis wandering the marshlands and bathing in the ponds of Ozegahara.