Exploring Japan returns to the Kanto region with Gunma Prefecture.
Gunma is in the northwestern corner of the Kanto area on Honshu. It’s the second landlocked prefecture I’m covering. It has a population of 2,014,608 and has some of the highest temperatures of Japan in summer. The capital city is Maebashi. Here are the 5 largest cities in Gunma:
Gunma has a slowly decreasing population, similar to many other prefectures.
Takasaki Castle in Takasaki has very little remaining. But it’s apparently worth seeing some of the remaining buildings.
The only major professional team in Gunma is the Thespa Kusatsu Gunma soccer team in the J-League. There was a team in Takasaki, but it had financial problems.
Things to see and do
When I think of Gunma, I think of two things, both of them hot. First is the hot weather in the southeast, near Saitama. It’s one of the hottest parts of Japan. The other is hot springs. In particular, the town of Kusatsu and its hot springs resorts.
In Maebashi, the capital, there isn’t really much to see or do. You could watch soccer or take in a 360 degree view of the city at the Gunma Prefecture Governmental Building or see the Ogo Gion Festival.
Takasaki is more interesting than the capital. It’s the home of the Daruma doll. Shorinzan Daruma Temple is the origin of the Daruma dolls, and it has a small museum. Mt. Kannonyama has a big Kannon statue at the top, as well as a cave and garden. For those who like history, Zenpou-Kouen-Fun has a lot of keyhole tombs that are 1500 years old and an archaeology museum. Gunma no Mori has a couple of good museums. Mt. Haruna has a very old shrine, as well as a scenic crater lake and the top of the mountain can be accessed by bus. Minowa Castle ruins are also in Takasaki.
Tomioka city is also worth visiting for its silk history. It has Japan’s oldest modern silk mill. You can also see the Gunma Safari Park and the Tomioka Museum of Natural History, which has 30 dinosaur skeletons.
Kiryu has some great old architecture dating back to the Meiji era. It seems like it’s a great place to walk around. Nearby is the Watarase River valley, which is considered Japan’s Grand Canyon. Great place for hiking and seeing the gorge. There’s also a 400 year old copper mine that you can see. The city is also well known for silk and pachinko factories.
Ota city is known as Japan’s “Little Brazil,” as there’s a large Brazilian population. Also, Subaru’s headquarters are here. Some things of interest are Daikoin Temple, as well as the remains of Kanayama Castle. Also, the Yabuzuka Onsen is the local hot springs, but nearby is the Snake Center, which has a collection of rare snakes.
Tatebayashi is a city that’s pretty close to Saitama in the far southeast. You can see the Tatebayashi Castle ruins there. But it’s also well known for azaleas, which can be see at Tsutsuji-ga-oka Park. Morinji Temple is home to “Bunbuku Chagama,” tanuki tea kettles.
Kusatsu is a small town, but it’s very famous in Japan. Yabutake, a huge hot spring resort, looks very interesting. There are more than 100 hot springs, plenty of museums, flowers, lakes, mountains, and a ski area. It’s very popular to go there during winter to ski in the daytime and relax in the hot springs at night. Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane is an active volcano that you can take a tour of, and it has a crater lake. It’s in Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, Japan’s second largest. Asama Volcano Museum is a good place to learn about volcanoes. Tropical Wonder Land has a lot of tropical animals.
Gunma is famous for wheat and other agricultural products. One popular food is udon. The prefecture is also well-known for cabbage, negi (long green onion), and konnyaku (konjac).