Barely 3 hours away, Gunma is a convenient getaway from the bustling Tokyo city very much like how Hua Hin is an escape from Bangkok. But unlike Hua Hin, the prefecture has a rather “unpopular” reputation amongst locals that there’s nothing much to do there.
I beg to differ. There’s so many things to see and do, so how did this impression come about? I guess it’s just really the lack of marketing. Here’s why Gunma needs to be on everyone’s bucket list!
#1: Skiing in Gunma
It’s one of the most accessible ski resorts from Tokyo. Although I’m not the best at skiing, I heard the snow quality is pretty good there!
Best time to visit: Winter, late Dec to Mar.
List of ski resorts in Gunma: www.visitgunma.jp
#2: Trekking / Hiking in Gunma
If skiing is not your cup of tea, how about hiking instead? Ozegahara is the largest highland marsh in Japan. It’s said that the marsh was formed back in the ice-age and many of the plants from then still grow here. If you are lucky you can also catch a glimpse of the Asiatic Black Bear!
Best time to visit: Summer and Autumn. It’s inaccessible in winter unless you drive your way there.
How to get there: Check out our Oze post
#3: Onsen in Gunma
If there’s one thing that Gunma should be famous for, it’s their onsens. Even if you’re not the type to soak yourself naked with a bunch of strangers, the onsen towns like Kusatsu are a marvel to look at.
Best time to visit: Winter is obviously the best for a hot soak, but autumn and spring are decent as well. Just don’t go during the hot summers!
#4: Flower Fields in Gunma
Lilies, lotus, roses, hydrangea: You don’t have to travel to Sapporo for those picture perfect moments of blooming flower fields. Gunma is full of them as well!
P.S. we went at a bad timing.
Best time to visit: Summer. This is trickier because different flowers having different timing so it’s best to get the latest updates from Gunma’s tourism site.
#5: Daruma from Gunma
Seen this doll somewhere before? It’s call a Daruma doll, also known as a wishing doll. Japanese will set their goal for the year (something tangible and within reach) and they paint one of the eyes at the start of the year. When the goal is fulfilled, they will paint the other eye and bring it to the temples to be burned. The doll originated from Takasaki and the city currently still produces 80% of the dolls in Japan. Every year in January, people from all over will visit the city to buy a new Daruma (after they’ve burnt the old one).
#Bonus: Festivals in Gunma
There are plenty of festivals in Tokyo, but the ones in Gunma have that laid-back feel that’s just so different from the bigger cities. Festivals in Gunma also follow an older calendar so they tend to host various festivals earlier than the major cities.
Remember to check out the list of events and festivals on their tourism site before heading there!