Visit the Best Onsens in Gunma, Japan

Most people in almost all parts of the world would have to work at some point in their lives. People generally work in order to earn money or to pay for expenses that are needed for them to survive and live in this world. There are some people who work too much to the point that the stress affects them not just mentally but also physically. Muscles, nerves, and joints sometimes begin to hurt due to this huge amount of stress that these people go through in their daily lives.

There are various ways of relaxing but probably one of the best methods is by dipping into a hot tub of water or better yet, soaking one’s body in a tub of hot spring water. There are various places all over Japan that people can visit to get access to hot springs or onsens. However, probably one of the places in the Land of the Sun that houses some of the best onsens in the country is none other than Gunma.

Facts: Map, Weather, Airport, Subaru Plant, and Transport to Tokyo

By Monaneko (昭和43年群馬県告示第553号) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Also known as Gunma-ken in Japanese, Gunma Prefecture is a prefecture situated in the region of Kanto on the northwest corner. Located on the main island of Honshu, the capital of this prefecture is Maebashi. The prefecture is under the supervision of Governor Masaaki Osawa. Gunma Prefecture has a total area of 6,362.33 square kilometers, which is equivalent to 2,456.51 square miles. In terms of area, Gunma is ranked 21st on the list.

With a total population of 1,971,195 as of the 1st of May in the year 2015, the prefecture ranks 19th on the list of most populated prefectures in the country. As a result, Gunma Prefecture has a population density of 310 persons per square kilometer, which is equivalent to 800 persons per square mile. The ISO 3166 code of this prefecture is JP-10. Gunma consists of seven districts and 35 municipalities. Its symbols include the Japanese azalea flower or Rhododendron japonicum, the Japanese black pine tree or Pinus thunbergii, the Copper pheasant bird or Phasianus soemmerringii, and the Sweetfish or Plecoglossus altivelis.

Mostly mountainous, Gunma is among the only landlocked prefectures in the country. A dominant portion of the population is concentrated in the central and southeast areas of the prefecture. To the north of Gunma lies Fukushima Prefecture and Niigata Prefecture. To the East of Gunma lies Tochigi Prefecture. On the west side of Gunma lies Nagano Prefecture while on the south side lies Saitama Prefecture.

Containing a lot of mountains in the area, Gunma is great for people who love sightseeing by land. Some of the mountains include Mount Akagi, Mount Myogi, Haruna, Mount Nikko-Shirane, and Mount Asama, which can be found on the border of Nagano. Some of the main rivers in Gunma include the Tone River, the Karasu River, and the Agatsuma River. A portion of the total land area of Gunma amounting to 14 percent was designated as Natural Parks as of the 1st of April in the year 2012. Some of these include Jōshin’etsu-kōgen National Park, Oze National Park, Nikko National Park, and Myogi-Arafune-Saku Kogen Quasi-National Park.

By Kamimoku International Village [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

There is much less precipitation in Gunma due to its location being in inland Japan. There is a huge difference between the temperature in the area during the summer season and winter season. This huge difference may be attributed to the kara-kaze, which translates to “empty wind.” It is a strong but dry wind that occurs during the winter season with snowfall on the coasts of Niigata. The Echigo Mountains serve as an obstruction to the wind that carries clouds with snow. Snowfall also occurs in the said mountains. The average yearly precipitation in Maebashi is 1,163 mm while the average yearly temperature is at 14.2 degrees Celsius.

Modern industries in the prefecture focus on electrical equipment as well as transport machinery. These industries are generally concentrated around the capital Maebashi as well as the eastern part of the prefecture that is nearest to the Tokyo metropolis. There are still traditional industries in the area like sericulture and agriculture. The primary agricultural products in Gunma include konjacs and cabbages. 90 percent of konjacs in Japan is produced by Gunma Prefecture.

Moreover, around 60 percent of the farms in Tsumagoi village are cabbage farms. One of the things that Ota, a city in Gunma, is known for is car industry, with the Subaru plant located here. A few notable things to know about Gunma is that it has traditional card game known as Jomo Karuta. A Kamikaze pilot known as Kiyoshi Ogawa was also born in this prefecture. Ogawa was the one who was the leader of the attack on the USS Bunker Hill.

Gunma also serves as home to one of the three Melody Roads in the country. Grooves amounting to 2,559 cut into a length of the road surface that is 175 meters in length. These grooves transport a tactile vibration through the wheels that transmit it to the body of the vehicle. The body creates the melody of “Memories of Summer” when the road is driven at 50 kilometers per hour. Coming from Tokyo, the Joetsu Shinkansen passess through Gunma as it heads to Niigata. Hence, one can take this route if visiting from Tokyo.

A Guide on the Famous Onsens in Gunma, Japan

By Norimasa Hayashida (Ishidan no Yu) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Gunma is probably one of the best places to go to when one’s body is in need of relief. A number of onsens in this area are actually quite famous not just locally but in other countries as well as some foreign tourists. One of the most famous onsens in the country would be Kusatsu Onsen which has been popular ever since that it even ranked first place in an Edo period ranking of hot springs. It has been at the top spot in the Top 100 Onsen of Japan for 13 consecutive years.

Natural hot spring water flows in this onsen every single minute. The amount of water has reached 32,300 liters. That is equivalent to about 230,000 barrels of water in just one single day. What makes this water special is the amount of minerals that it contains that are good for the body. These minerals differ depending on its source though the water is basically composed of hot, hypotonic, and acidic. The special feature of the water in this onsen is its acidity level, which is quite high with a pH level of 2.1.

Another popular onsen in Gunma is Ikaho Onsen. This hot spring resort is rich in history as it was even mentioned in the oldest existing collection of poems in the country, Manyoshu. It is said that the onsen was used as a place where wounded soldiers were brought to heal during the Battle of Nagashino. The special feature in the onsen is the stone steps that have existed for a very long time.

The stone steps are sandwiched by souvenir shops as well as game halls. Onsen manju, or steamed bun filled with sweet red bean, can also be found here. It is said that this yummy treat actually originated here. The food is said to have been patterned based on the golden-colored hot spring water of the onsen known as Kogane no yu. Most guests stroll the area of the stone steps while wearing a yukata, which provides a unique atmosphere. One other source of onsen here aside from Kogane no yu is Shiroane no yu.

A top recommendation when in the area of Gunma is Minakami Onsen Area. It houses nine onsen resorts. These include Yubiso Onsen, Tanigawa Onsen, and Takaragawa Onsen. The popularity of this area grew when the Joetsu Line opened during the Showa period. Several writers such as Yosano Tekkan, Wakayama Bokusui, and Dazai Osamu are known to love this place.

Other Top Tourist Attractions in Gunma

By BrianAdler (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Aside from the famous onsens, there are also other tourist attractions located in Gunma. One of the most popular ones is Oze National Park. This place is great for hikers as it serves as a great hiking destination in the mountains. The special features of this park are the Ozegahara Marshland as well as the Ozenuma Pond. There are also mountains that surround and are included within the park. The place is extremely packed during the late spring season and early summer season when skunk cabbages begin to bloom. People also flock to this place during the early autumn season because of the fall colors.

The park consists of several trailheads that guests can pass by as they enter the park. Because of the amount of traffic in the area, the trails are maintained well. Wide elevated boardwalks can be used and let visitors pass over the Ozagahara Marshland. The path also goes around the Ozenuma Pond. The path for hiking from the Hatomachitoge trailhead can be completed in about 6 to 8 hours. The inclines are also moderately difficult but intermediate hikers would be able to conquer them.

Another must-see is the city of Tomioka. Located in the southwestern part of Gunma Prefecture, the city serves as the place where the first modern silk factory in the country was established, which was in the year 1872. Being the first factory, the Tomioka Silk Mill became the model for other upcoming silk mills in Japan. This was an attempt to improve and modernize the silk industry in the country during the Meiji period. This mill played a vital role as it made the textile industry among the top industries in the country for many decades, which helped sustain the growth of the economy.

Moreover, the Tomioka Silk Mill also became the biggest silk mill in the world at the time of its construction. With the developments made by the mill, raw silk grew into a primary commodity that was sought after by foreign countries. Hence, with its great quality, this commodity became an export product hailing from the Land of the Sun. The reputation of Tomioka was unparalleled because of the high quality of the silk. The original buildings of the mill have been enlisted as World Heritage Site in the year 2014.

Take A Break and Relax in Gunma

If one would like to explore more in Gunma Prefecture, head on over to Mt. Haruna. It is one of the most famous mountains in the prefecture. Sitting near the summit of the mountain is Lake Haruna. What makes this lake extra beautiful is its reflection of the changing seasons. Adventurers can take the hiking trails located along the outer rim of the crater. Different species of flowers bloom in this area depending on the season from late April to Late September.

During the winter season, spectacular light shows are performed to the delight of the guests. Ice fishing for wakasagi is also another relaxing activity that one can do here during the winter season because of the frozen lake. During the summer season, visitors can go camping and fishing as well. Boat riding can also be enjoyed in this area.

There are many more places that one can visit when in Gunma. A single day trip would most certainly not be enough for people who would like to go explore various places. However, for people just wishing to relax and relieve the body of muscle and joint pains, visiting the famous onsens and taking a dip in their hot spring water would definitely do the trick.