Naturally Gunma—Relax and Recharge in rural retreats

Gunma is the ideal place to get away from it all. Breathe in the fresh air, relax in natural hot springs, and recharge both body and mind

Naturally Gunma—Relax and Recharge in rural retreats

Last updated: May 06, 2022

Gunma’s natural beauty and clean air have the power to heal. Spending time in nature has been proven to reduce stress, blood pressure, and muscle tension while improving physical wellbeing. Consider a trip to Gunma your prescription for relaxation. The soaring mountains, gentle farmlands, national parks, and the quiet countryside are ideal for social distancing and renewing your energy.

Mountain highs at Mt. Akagi

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This beautiful area is close to Maebashi City, and around 2.5 hours from Tokyo by car. Mt. Akagi is a group of mountains around Lake Onuma, a beautiful caldera lake. The southern end of Lake Onuma is an ideal base for exploring, with facilities including a car park, several restaurants, and boat rental. You can access the area by car, or by bus from Maebashi Station.

A hiking loop trail starts from Lake Onuma, and includes the summit of Mt. Kurobi (1,828 m), the highest peak in the Akagi mountain range. Following along the ridgeline to Mt. Komagatake (1,685 m) takes you back to the lakeside. The trail up to Mt. Kurobi can be a little steep and rocky, so asending is safer than descending and following the trail in a loop is recommended. The summit of Mt. Kurobi is cool and refreshing in summer, and rich with autumn colors in fall. Descending from Mt. Komagatake, the trail takes you through Kakumanbuchi Marsh, where alpine plants bloom. In summer, you can see azaleas, and daylilies around the marsh. Many hikers visit Akagi-jinja Shrine on the shore, before starting their climb. For a less-challenging activity, you can walk around the shore of Lake Onuma or rent a paddleboat and enjoy the water. Around the middle of the mountain, Akagi Onsen Area has five inns where you can stay, relax and soak in the onsen waters while enjoying the fresh air and scenery. There are also excellent accommodation options nearby in Maebashi.

Relaxing blues and quiet walks in Shima

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Tucked away in Joshin'etsukogen National Park at the upper stream of the Shima River, Shima Onsen is a serene escape from the stresses of daily life. There are 35 traditional inns along charming streets, 25 of which offer private onsen baths which can be reserved by guests. Shima Onsen is surrounded by nature, with forested mountains, waterfalls, and crystal clear lakes. The color of the Shima River, Lake Okushima and Lake Shima is an extraordinary cobalt blue, known locally as “Shima Blue.” Just looking at the blue water calms the senses. Stroll around the lake and find a shady spot to relax, or glide across the water in a canoe or stand-up paddleboard (SUP). You can enjoy guided experiences on the water at Lake Shima and Lake Okushima, with advanced reservation. You can also rent bicycles from Shima Onsen Association to explore the area, riding along quiet, tree-lined roads and stopping along the way to enjoy the free foot baths (ashiyu).

Green fields and wide skies in Tsumagoi

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Discover Gunma's rural heartland, with rolling farmlands framed by views of Mt. Asama and Mt. Azumaya. Rent an E-bike at Manza-Kazawaguchi Station, and cycle through emerald green fields of the local specialty: cabbage. Take a lunch break at Tsumagoi Kogen Brewery. The onsite restaurant serves a wide selection of beers of course, along with tasty dishes including pasta and pizza. Don't miss the cabbage salad—an impressive mountain of finely-cut cabbage. Another lunch option is Ayametei, a classic Japanese restaurant with a commitment to using home-grown vegetables. In summer, you can try the cabbage rolls. Even the restaurant logo is a cabbage.

For fresh air and beautiful views, head to Asama Plateau for seasonal flowers. There are around 150,000 rhododendrons in May. The pink flowers look beautiful against a backdrop of snowy mountains. With low light pollution and wide, clear skies, the area is ideal for star-gazing and contemplation. In winter, the area is popular for skiing, with the snow resorts of Manza Onsen nearby.

Stay at the Tsumagoi Prince Hotel or the Manza Prince Hotel next to Manza Onsen Ski Resort, to make the most of your time. Both offer outdoor onsens with milky acidic springs, along with spacious gardens to explore and expansive views of greenery to help you to relax completely.

Connect with creativity in Minakami

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Visitors come to the Minakami area for its rivers, lakes and wilderness for outdoor activities, along with abundant hot springs and ski resorts. But Minakami also offers a relaxing break from city life. Slow down and unleash your creativity with quiet forest walks and craft activities.

Takuminosato, about 20 minutes by bus from Jomo-Kogen Station, is known as the village of artisans. This collection of four charming rural villages has wide streets and well-preserved traditional houses and ateliers, making for a pleasant day of strolling or cycling. Experiences and workshops include fabric dyeing, painting masks, making washi paper, glass blowing, fruit picking, as well as preparing traditional Japanese food items such as konnyaku and soba noodles. Cafes and restaurants in the village serve healthy dishes with locally-grown ingredients. Don’t miss the soba noodles, which are a specialty of the area.

After a day of creativity, choose from a range of accommodation options in the area for a relaxing stay, including Sarugakyo Onsen, Hoshi Onsen, Tanigawa Onsen or Takaragawa Onsen. Sarugakyo Hotel, overlooking Lake Akaya is about 10 minutes drive from Takuminosato. This quiet hotel is known for its tofu-based cuisine which is made fresh onsite every day, and served in traditional, multi-course kaiseki meals. Hoshi Onsen Chojukan is about 20 minutes by car from Takuminosato. It is renowned for its beautiful wooden bath house, which is over 140 years old and is registered as a Tangible Cultural Property of Japan. Many artists and writers have stayed at Chojukan and were inspired by the peaceful atmosphere. Enjoy modern luxury at Bettei Senjuan in Tanigawa Onsen or the traditional charms of Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku in Takaragawa Onsen.

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