An elusively charming onsen town.
If you love hot springs (who doesn’t?) and the retro flair of Tokyo’s Shibamata, put Ikaho on your list of places to visit in Japan. Located in Shibukawa, a city in the center of Gunma Prefecture, Ikaho is an onsen (hot spring) village with a history more than 400 years old.
How do locals hike?
Ikaho, on the other hand, is well-known, but not exactly easy to reach, adding to its elusive charm. Most Japanese visit by car, but the trip is possible by train. It’s a popular spot in the Kanto area for viewing fall foliage from late October to mid-November.
Mountain views and more
Start your sightseeing with a ride on Ikaho Ropeway, which connects the area with the summit of Mount Monokiki. Then, take in the sights at Tokimeki Deck at Mount Kaminoyama Park before making your descent into town.
At the center of Ikaho stands its main symbol, a stone stairway of 365 steps lined by mom-and-pop restaurants, souvenir shops and game stalls. If you see everyone looking down, it’s because they’re looking to find their Chinese zodiac sign. You can also practice Japanese — or just enjoy the mysterious characters — by reading the poetry etched into the stairs.
On your way up, stop by Ikaho no Yu to snack on onsen manju, a steamed bun filled with bean paste, which is a local must-try. Once you reach the top of the stairs, observe the quiet beauty of Gunma from the grounds of Ikaho Shrine.
From Ikaho Shrine make your way to Kajika Bridge, an arched bright red bridge that is illuminated at night. After taking a leisurely stroll and lots of photos of the colorful autumn leaves, it’s time to head on over to Ikaho Rotenburo, open air hot spring, to take in the sights from the the bath.
Also popular in this area is hiking, camping, fishing, and even picking fresh fruits like apples, blueberries, cherries and grapes.
Given the abundance of nature in the area, you’ll have more to do than soaking in an onsen. Also popular is hiking, camping, fishing, and even picking fresh fruits like apples, blueberries, cherries and grapes.
Of course, being only 90 minutes away from Tokyo by bullet train means that you’ll be able to soak in an onsen any time of the year. If you’re looking to trade the bustle of the city for some relaxation, get up to Ikaho.