Recently I was asked to do a simple 3-minute presentation focusing on why tourists should consider traveling to Gunma Prefecture. Here are some famous and off-the-beaten-path places that I’ve visited over the years. It is not a comprehensive list, it is just a sample!
Most people don’t know much about Gunma as marketing is not their strong point. This means that their fantastic sightseeing spots are rarely crowded!
Do you enjoy visiting temples and shrines? Gunma is filled with an impressive and unique collection, most of which are relatively unknown.
For example, Morinji is a temple famous for its connection to the mythical tanuki.
Haruna Jinja sits deep in an ancient cedar forest, surrounded by jagged rocks.
Kashozan Miroku-ji is located on ‘Tengu Mountain’ and is home to Japan’s largest tengu mask!
Ichinomiya Nukisaki Shrine has a very unusual location below its entrance!
Gunma is also filled with fantastic hot spring villages. My favorites are:
Kusatsu – with its amazing town center…
Ikaho – and its fantastic ryokan and shop-lined staircase…
and Shima Onsen – with its retro alleys, lovely riverside location, and unique ryokan, Sekizenkan.
Do you enjoy winter sports? Gunma is home to some of Japan’s best skiing. I’m not a skier, but in Minakami, I have enjoyed sledding and snowmobiling. In addition, you can try snowshoeing, back country skiing, and ice fishing.
In warmer months, there is excellent hiking all over the prefecture. My favorite spot is Ozegahara, a huge marshland cris-crossed with boardwalks. Tanbara Marsh is similar, but easier to access.
Enjoy water sports? Gunma offers canoeing, white water rafting – even canyoning.
An easy day trip that I recommend is to the city of Takasaki where artisans make daruma dolls. You can visit a daruma temple, visit a daruma factory, and even make your own.
The city is also home to a massive Goddess of Mercy that you can climb and some fascinating Buddhist caves.
Another day trip is to one of my favorite Kanto cherry blossom viewing spots, Tatebayashi City. Over 4,000 koi-no-bori, fish sock streamers, hang over a sakura-lined river.
Want to visit a World Heritage Site? Gunma is home to the Tomioka Silk Mill.
Honestly, Gunma has everything. Unique museums, a winery, a volcanic park, even a European Castle!
The town of Kawaba should be at the top of your bucket list. It is home to stunning Kichijoji Temple, one of Japan’s best Michi-no-eki, a ski resort, hot springs, and some of Japan’s top sake breweries – including Nagai Shuzo!
*I truly hope you get a chance to visit this underrated prefecture