Gunma’s most beautiful moments to capture on your phone (or camera), to remember your trip and share with your friends
Last updated: May 06, 2022
Gunma is full of beautiful moments: reflections of vivid autumn foliage in polished floors, unexpected art installations, steam rising from secluded hot-springs, and tree branches glistening with hoarfrost under the winter sun. The four corners of Gunma are bathed in beauty, and each season brings its own special sights and experiences. Discover some of Gunma’s most gorgeous destinations, including where to stay and what to see, as well as tips for taking the best pictures.
Vibrant colors, artworks, and decorative features such as painted screens and stylized statues draw the eye as you explore the grounds. Hotokuji Temple is especially popular for the mirror-like surface of the floor of the main hall, which is revealed for seasonal events, to reflect the surrounding scenery of maple trees and mountains. Autumn is breathtaking, but also the most popular time to visit. To get the best photos of the scenery reflected in the floor, take some time to find the best angles. Be aware that using tripods and monopods is not permitted in the grounds. Visit the temple early when the gates open, or consider visiting in spring, when peonies bloom in the grounds. For around six weeks of summer, the temple has an installation of decorative glass wind chimes, creating a tinkling tunnel of color that looks great on camera.
Stay in a uniquely designed room decorated with contemporary artworks, or one of four special rooms designed by world-renowned artists such as Leandro Erlich, at the Shiroiya Hotel, a renovated inn with a 300-year history. Every corner of the hotel oozes originality and deserves a place in your photo library. It’s not just the art and the architecture which deserves to be recorded, but the food too. The hotel’s chefs use carefully selected local produce to create artful cuisine. There is also a patisserie, bakery, a chic outlet of Blue Bottle Coffee, a weekend-only bar, and a Finnish sauna and a mist sauna to refresh mind and body.
The milky green, sometimes emerald green color of the geothermal water at the yubatake in central Kusatsu makes it one of the most-photographed places in Gunma. Stay overnight for a more intimate setting and to capture Yubatake lit with colorful lights, ranging from warm orange to rich ultra-violet. Steam rising from the water is illuminated by the lights, and the soft glow of lighting from the retro-style shops and accommodations that surround the square add to the atmosphere. Around Christmastime, a large fir tree is set up and decorated with fairy lights for a magical scene.
Nestled between the peaks of Mt. Akagi, this crater lake is a popular destination for both hikers and photographers. Forested mountainsides and the leaves of trees along the lakeshore turn vibrant shades in autumn. Contrasted with the typically sunny weather and blue skies of Gunma in autumn, the fall foliage season is perhaps the most popular time of year for a visit. Hike from the lake to the summit of Mt. Akagi in late spring and early summer to see large colonies of azaleas in bloom. Visit in winter, and you may catch the miraculous appearance of ice bubbles on the surface of the lake, that can only be seen for a short period of time after the lake surface freezes and before the snow piles up. On the coldest mornings, you may find hoarfrost glistening on the bare branches of the trees around the shore and in the distance.
Sekizenkan is a charming ryokan inn located in Shima Onsen, a small hot-spring resort within the borders of the Joshin’etsukogen National Park. The inn is 300 years old, and many visitors stop at the red bridge leading to the hotel grounds to take photos of the traditional exteriors of the buildings and the surrounding foliage. The glimpse from the bridge is just a small taste of the full-on aesthetics of the ryokan and the other hot-spring inns in Shima Onsen. Combine a stay in Shima Onsen with exploration of the Shima River. Downstream from the hot-spring resort, crystal clear water collects in pools of different sizes and depths flanked on either side by towering rocky outcrops. On sunny days, the pools of the Shima Potholes take on a translucent turquoise hue—great for photos.
Takatsudokyo Gorge is another prime destination to capture Gunma’s beautiful fall colors. Whatever season you visit, one of the best spots for snaps is the Hanetaki pedestrian bridge which spans the gorge. Head to the center of the bridge to get both the upstream and downstream sections of the gorge in frame. For a different perspective, follow the footpath down from the bridge and into the gorge, or consider taking one of the retro trolley trains that skirt the gorge on the Watarase Keikoku Railway.
The brickwork and the elegantly curved arches of the Usui 3rd Bridge, part of an abandoned railway line, make for wonderful photos when shot from below. Get a friend to stand in the foreground as you shoot the bridge to get a true sense of its scale. The bridge is the tallest arched brickwork bridge in Japan, at 31 meters. Walk along a section of the abandoned railway for dystopian shots of disused tunnels and rusted tracks. By joining an organized walking tour, you can discover additional photo spots and areas not normally open to the public.
The tumbling cascade of the waterfall and the red, hanging suspension bridge leading to the falls draw visitors deep into the mountains of eastern Gunma. The best time to visit is in autumn when it is framed with fiery fall colors. In winter, you can capture the waterfall framed by snow (watch your step as you walk on the steep bridge). To see the cascade at its most thunderous, visit in early summer when rainfall is at its highest but be careful of walking trails becoming slippery underfoot. Make a day of it by hiking to the falls from Konaka Station (about 7 kilometers). The route follows a pleasant path into the mountains and during April, you can enjoy several different types of cherry trees along the way.
A ropeway whisks visitors to the Tenjindaira plateau high up on Mt. Tanigawa for snow activities in winter, hiking in spring and summer, and leaf-peeping in fall, as well as stargazing on special days, typically in spring and autumn. Light pollution is minimal and distant stars and constellations can be seen clearly by the naked eye from the plateau. Bring a tripod, a remote shutter release, and a fast, wide-angle lens for capturing the starry sky. Some special night-sky events also include digital light shows and art installations.
The long flight of stone steps that lead through the center of Ikaho Onsen, flanked on either side by retro shops, homes, and traditional accommodations, make for excellent hot-spring streetscape shots. A short walk from the top of the steps brings you to a gracefully arched wooden bridge with red balustrades, surrounded by maple trees. Kajika Bridge is perhaps the hot-spring resort’s most popular spot in summer and autumn. In summer the rich greens of the surrounding foliage provide a lush backdrop for your photos, and in fall the shades of the leaves almost match the color of the balustrades. During the autumn season, Kajika Bridge is often lit up for a few hours at dusk, offering additional photo opportunities.