Tag Archives: onsen

Gunma Ropeway

Tokyo to Gunma

Gunma, one of Japan’s central prefectures, can be reached quickly from multiple cities in Japan; including Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo, in just a few hours by car. If traveling from Tokyo, the Kan-etsu freeway links from the capital to the prefecture directly in just under two hours.

One of the highlights of a trip to Gunma is a visit to the multiple Onsen towns. Some of Gunma’s best known hot spring towns include Kusatsu Onsen, Minakami Onsen, Isobe Onsen and Ikaho Onsen. Each town has its own distinct onsen feature, but Manza, Kusatsu and Minakami are the most popular visits for tourists.

Haruna Jinja

En route to one of the northern Onsen towns, a trip along the highway will give visitors plenty of options as they travel through central Japan; with the city of Takasaki the first option. After that, a visit into Shibukawa and Ikaho is highly recommended.

As you head into Ikaho area, Ikaho Green Farm will be the first port of call. Fun for both adults and visitors, and famous for it’s Moumou Ice Cream; the farm has a vast array of animals and restaurants to enjoy. A trip along the highway will give visitors plenty of options as they travel through central Japan; with the city of Takasaki the first option. After that, a visit into Shibukawa and Ikaho is highly recommended. A trip to Ikaho would not be complete without a stop off at Mizusawaji temple (ring the bell if you can!) and then stop off at Mizusawaji’s Udon Street for a bite to eat afterwards. The Udon Street is just a minute or two away from the temple.

After that, enjoy the opportunity to experience some hot springs in your choice of town for your stay. With some of Japan’s most beautiful ryokan’s and excellent hot springs, no trip to this part of the country is complete without enjoying the real overnight ryokan experience.

If you decide to visit Takasaki, a visit to the Haruna Shrine is highly recommended. Known in Japan for being a “power temple”, Haruna-jinja has some of the most stunning nature and is most popular in the Autumn months. Word of advice, parking is short around this temple. Prepare and go there early if possible, otherwise face a lengthy hour wait in the mountains.

Another sight to look out for is to take a trip to one of Gunma’s many ropeways, to really enjoy the views over the mountains.

Gunma Ropeway

Takachiho

Takachiho to Oita, Beppu Hot Springs

Kyushu,  as mentioned in our previous article, is one of the most beautiful prefectures in Japan. With hundreds of miles of rolling hills and glorious green countryside; having a visit to this prefecture on your Japan visit itinerary is very worthwhile.

Japan has some of the most safe and modern roads in the world. The roads in Kyushu are amongst some of the most fun to drive. One such journey to take is a trip from Takachiho, in the Miyazaki prefecture, to the North East of Kyushu; Oita-ken. The Oita prefecture is famous for its onsens. Japan is a very seismically active country and Kyushu is particularly volcanic, this therefore makes for some of the most glorious hot springs in the country.

In Takachiho, one of the spots well worth visiting is the Takachiho Shrine. There are not many hotels in the local area, but from the central town to the shrine takes only five minutes and the roads in the area are quiet and fun to navigate.  A short walk will also take you to the Takachiho Gorge, which is amongst the most beautiful spots to visit in the entire country. Not often visited by tourists because of the location, with a car this is achievable. The Gorge has an area where you will be able to hire a boat and sail alongside the river and has some of the most excellent photo opportunities.

Takachiho Gorge
Takachiho Gorge

From there, a trip to Amano Iwato Shrine (882-1621; telephone: 0982-74-8239) takes approximately 15 minutes.

Amano Iwato Shrine
Amano Iwato Shrine

From Takachiho, you can visit Oita in approximately three hours. The roads – despite not being highways – are a joy to drive. Once you drive into Oita, the first port of call would be visiting The Hells (874-000); a selection of hot springs in different shapes, colours and varieties. Beppu itself is a city, so expect the roads to be busy and be on the look out for road signs, if you get lost and off the main streets in the city centre, expect a tricky trip to where you need to be.

Hells Jigoku Beppu
Hells Jigoku Beppu

One trip worth taking is just outside of Beppu, in another hot spring resort called Yufuin. Yufuin is less touristy, so the hotels are a little cheaper and better quality. A trip from Beppu to Yufuin only takes 10 minutes. With a car this is highly recommended.

At Yufuin, enjoy driving up and down the main street in the town. This is a traditional Japanese village and the shops and architecture are designed in a style of that era.  Finally, take a quick stop off at Kinrinko. The lake is famous for its morning mist, but this can only be seen prior to 11am.

Morning Mist at Kinrinko
Morning Mist at Kinrinko
Izu Peninsula

A side trip to the Izu Peninsula

The Izu Peninsula is a popular side trip away from Tokyo for the day, or even for a weekend. A town full of beautiful onsens and ryokans, you are sure to find both enjoyment and a chance to relax amongst Japanese countryside. The area is well served by local train and direct from Tokyo, whilst driving there is also an excellent experience. A journey from Tokyo to Izu (part of the Shizuoka prefecture) will normally take over 2 hours. Depending on which part of Izu you are staying, this could take as long as 3 hours, however. The peninsula is a very large place.

Tokyo to Izu
Tokyo to Izu

Directions can be found on Google Maps.

There are numerous options for getting to Tokyo. The first, and perhaps the longest route, is to drive from Tokyo into Yokohama, and then follow the route around Sagami Bay. This will then show you some of the beautiful scenery from around this lovely bay overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This also goes through Odawara, a good spot to stop off and have a light snack before you head on into Izu peninsula. Alternatively, and perhaps the fastest route, sees you drive through the highways on an approximate journey of around 142 kilometres, passing through Gotenba. This town is famous for its unparalleled view of Mount Fuji from distance, as you drive through the Yamanashi Prefecture. Gotemba is also famous for being a hot spot for shopping, with Tokyoites taking a weekend trip to the Gotemba Premium Outlets.

Gotemba Premium Outlets
Gotemba Premium Outlets

As the locals swarm to this area on a weekend, be sure to be well prepared for traffic. The road into Izu is sure to be busy and full of tourists and local Japanese people alike, looking for a quick break away from the city.

Izu

In Izu, there are numerous places to enjoy and to stop by. On the east coast, you have the beautiful Jogasaki. Overlooking Sagami Bay this truly offers some wonderful driving around the coastal lines.

Sagami Bay
Sagami Bay

At the southern tip of Izu you have the beautiful Irozaki. This is very close to Kawazu, which is beautiful during the months of March and April for cherry blossom. The sakura is not just the most famous thing from the area though, as you may have heard that Shimoda, just in between Kawazu and Irozaki, is where Commodore Perry’s black ships landed in 1854. Commodore Perry is of course famous for helping Japan break free from their period of isolation; a time when no foreigner was allowed into Japan or to engage with Japanese people.

Further around the west coast of Izu is the delightful Dogashima and Matsuzaki. This unique and scene coastline is famous for its stunning views of stone formations and cliffs. You can even venture into some of the caves along the coast. Driving around this area will give you a good general feel for the area, but the best way to approach this is via boat, which can be found nearby.

In central Izu, and finally, you have the main town of Shuzenji, most famous for its onsen. This resort is named after the local temple of the same name. Many say that Izu hosts Japan’s oldest hot spring.

Shuzenji Onsen
Shuzenji Onsen

If you are planning a trip to Tokyo, do consider a trip around Izu. Nowadays, you can hire a car for around 5000 to 6000 yen, it is also worth shopping around using the excellent Tocoo website.

Izu Map