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Gunma Prefecture's Ikaho Onsen: Recommended Food, Gifts, and Attractions

Gunma Prefecture's Ikaho Onsen: Recommended Food, Gifts, and Attractions

Date published: 25 November 2022

Gunma Prefecture is home to many of Japan's famous hot spring resorts, earning it the nickname the 'Kingdom of Hot Springs.' And it's only an hour and a half drive from Tokyo!

One of these hot springs is Ikaho Onsen, where you can experience two types of springs, 'Kogane-no-Yu' and 'Shirogane-no-Yu.' Of course, there are also plenty of sights to see and foods to eat, including attractions like the 365-step Ikaho Stone Steps and delicacies like Mizusawa udon and hot spring-steamed buns.

Read on to learn what makes Ikaho Onsen so great!

Image courtesy of: Gugutto Gunma Photo Studio (http://gunma-dc.net/)

Table of Contents
  1. Ikaho Onsen: Gunma's leading hot spring resort
  2. Getting to Ikaho Onsen from Tokyo
  3. 5 Recommended Attractions in Ikaho Onsen
  4. 3 Recommended day trip hot springs in Ikaho
  5. Recommended things to eat in Ikaho Onsen
  6. Recommended Ikaho Onsen souvenirs
  7. 6 Recommended places to stay in Ikaho Onsen
  8. Enjoying Ikaho Onsen in every season
  9. Ikaho Onsen sightseeing attractions

Ikaho Onsen: Gunma's leading hot spring resort

Ikaho Onsen: Gunma's leading hot spring resort

Ikaho Onsen is located in Shibukawa City, Gunma Prefecture, about an hour and a half from Tokyo. Shibukawa City is also nicknamed 'the navel of Japan' due to its position right in the center of the Japanese archipelago. It is home to several unique events, including the 'Shibukawa Belly Button Festival,' which involves drawing a picture around your belly button and dancing around!

Ikaho Onsen has a long history. It has flourished as a hot spring resort since at least 600 years ago, according to a description in a book from that time that mentions the gushing springs.

Ikaho Onsen's main feature is that it includes two types of hot springs: 'Kogane-no-Yu' and 'Shirogane-no-Yu.'

Kogane-no-Yu (literally 'Golden Water') gets its name from the brownish hue it becomes due to the oxidation of its iron content, which is also said to be beneficial for neuralgia, skin diseases, and high blood pressure.

The colorless and transparent Shirogane-no-Yu is said to be great for those recovering from illness and fatigue and for improving general health.

Getting to Ikaho Onsen from Tokyo

Getting to Ikaho Onsen from Tokyo

By train

The nearest station to Ikaho Onsen is JR Shibukawa Station, which is very easy to get to. The Limited Express Kusatsu line from JR Ueno Station will take you right there! The train runs twice during weekdays, and three times on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, with a ride time of about 1 hour and 30-40 minutes. From Shibukawa Station, take the Kan-etsu Kotsu Bus to Ikaho Onsen (about 25 min).

By Shinkansen, we recommend riding the Joetsu or Hokuriku Shinkansen line to Takasaki Station and transferring to the JR Joetsu Line to Shibukawa Station. The Shinkansen runs pretty frequently, so you should arrive with plenty of time to spare!

If you're planning to travel by either Shinkansen or Limited Express Kusatsu, we recommend the JR TOKYO Wide Pass, a railway pass specifically for foreign visitors to Japan. This pass gives you unlimited reserved-seat rides on Shinkansen and limited express trains in the Kanto area. It's valid for three days, and costs 10,180 yen for adults (ages 12+) and 5,090 yen for children (ages 6-11). You can even stop by Takasaki and other areas on your way to and from Ikaho Onsen!

By bus

There are several highway buses that run from Tokyo to Ikaho Onsen. The shortest bus route is the Joshu Yumeguri, which will get you there in about two and a half hours. It departs from Tokyo Station's Yaesu South Exit and runs directly to Ikaho Onsen via the Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal (Shinjuku Station South Exit).

By car

Take Nerima IC on the Kan-Etsu Expressway (approx. 1 hour), and get off at Shibukawa Ikaho IC. From there, it's about 20 minutes to Ikaho Onsen.

5 Recommended Attractions in Ikaho Onsen

1. Ikaho Onsen Stone Steps

Image courtesy of: Gugutto Gunma Photo Studio (http://gunma-dc.net/)
Image courtesy of: Gugutto Gunma Photo Studio (http://gunma-dc.net/)

The stone steps in the center of the town are one of Ikaho Onsen's most symbolic spots! It was extended in 2010 and now has a total of 365 steps. Both sides of the staircase are lined with souvenir shops and old-fashioned playgrounds, retaining the appearance of a beloved spring that has indeed been around since ancient times.

Address: 541-4 Ikaho, Ikahocho, Shibukawa City, Gunma Prefecture (Shibukawa Ikaho Onsen Tourism Association)

  • Ikaho Stone Steps
    伊香保温泉石段街
    • Address 76-5, Ikaho, Ikaho, Shibukawa, Gunma
    • ・Business Hours / Admission / Regular holidays: None
      ・Phone: 0279-72-3151 (Shibukawa Ikaho Onsen Tourism Association)

2. Ikaho Shrine

Image courtesy of: Gugutto Gunma Photo Studio (http://gunma-dc.net/)
Image courtesy of: Gugutto Gunma Photo Studio (http://gunma-dc.net/)

At the top of the 365 stone stairs sits Ikaho Shrine, the guardian shrine of the springs. The deities enshrined here are the gods of the hot spring, medicine, prosperous business, and fertility. In the autumn, the shrine is also a famous spot for viewing the fall foliage.

  • Ikaho Shrine
    伊香保神社
    • Address 1, Ikaho, Ikaho, Shibukawa, Gunma
    • Phone Number 0279-72-2351
    • ・Business Hours / Admission / Regular holidays: None

3. Ikaho Toy, Doll, and Car Museum

Image courtesy of: Gugutto Gunma Photo Studio (http://gunma-dc.net/)
Image courtesy of: Gugutto Gunma Photo Studio (http://gunma-dc.net/)

In this museum, you'll experience retro Japan, with toys, dolls, and classic cars that were popular in the country over 50 years ago. At Showa Retro Park Dagashiya Yokocho (lit. 'Candy Alley'), you'll also get to walk though a reproduction of the streets of Japan as they were 50-60 years ago!

  • TOY, DOLL & CAR MUSEUM
    伊香保 おもちゃと人形自動車博物館
    • Address 2145, Kaminoda, Yoshioka, Kitagumma, Gumma
    • Phone Number 0279-55-5020
    • ・Hours: 9:00AM-6:00PM (4/25-10/31) / 9:00AM-5:00PM (11/1-4/24)
      ・Last entry: 45 minutes before closing
      ・Admission: Adults: 1,300 yen / Students: 900 yen (middle/high school) / Children: 450 yen (ages 4 through elementary school)
      ・Closed: Open daily

4. Takehisa Yumeji Ikaho Memorial Museum

Image courtesy of: Gugutto Gunma Photo Studio (http://gunma-dc.net/)
Image courtesy of: Gugutto Gunma Photo Studio (http://gunma-dc.net/)

Yumeji Takehisa was a Japanese painter who took the world by storm more than 100 years ago. This museum is a memorial hall, born from his connection with the land of Ikaho, which he loved dearly and visited often. Here, you'll find antiques from over 100 years ago, and exhibitions featuring Yumeji Takehisa's 'bijin-ga' paintings (ukiyoe paintings of beautiful women) and other works.

  • Takehisa Yumeji Ikaho Memorial
    竹久夢二伊香保記念館
    • Address 544-119, Kaminoda, Yoshioka, Kitagumma, Gumma
    • Phone Number 0279-72-4788
    • ・Hours: 9:00AM-5:00PM (Last entry: 4:00PM)
      ・Admission: Adults: 1,800 yen & up / Students: Free (junior high and younger / must be accompanied by a guardian)
      ・Closed: Open daily

5. Ikaho Forest Park

Image courtesy of: Gugutto Gunma Photo Studio (http://gunma-dc.net/)
Image courtesy of: Gugutto Gunma Photo Studio (http://gunma-dc.net/)

Just a short walk away from Ikaho Onsen is a ropeway that takes you right to the summit. Each season brings with it a different landscape, such as the spring azaleas and the fresh greenery of summer. We especially recommend coming in the fall to see the autumn leaves, painting the entire area in gorgeous shades of red.

  • Ikaho Forest Park
    伊香保森林公園
    • Address 999-9, Ikaho, Ikaho, Shibukawa, Gumma
    • Phone Number 0274-25-9811
    • ・Business Hours / Admission / Regular holidays: None

3 Recommended day trip hot springs in Ikaho

1. Ishidan-no-Yu

Image courtesy of: Gugutto Gunma Photo Studio (http://gunma-dc.net/)
Image courtesy of: Gugutto Gunma Photo Studio (http://gunma-dc.net/)

The most accessible day trip hot spring from Ikaho Onsen is the communal bath, Ishidan no Yu. It's located at the Stone Steps, around the 94th step. But don't worry about lugging your items up the staircase! Towels are sold inside the facility so that you can visit empty-handed. There's also a rest area on the second floor, where you can relax even more after your soak!

  • Ishidan-no-Yu
    石段の湯
    • Address 36, Ikaho, Ikaho, Shibukawa, Gumma
    • Phone Number 0279-72-4526
    • ・Hours: 9:00AM-8:00PM (Last entry: 7:30PM)
      ・Admission: Adult: 410 yen / Children: 200 yen (elementary school age)
      ・Closed: 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month (next day in the case of national holidays)

2. Kogane-no-Yu

2. Kogane-no-Yu

This day-use hot spring is attached to the Ikaho Grand Hotel. As its name suggests (it literally means 'Golden Water'), here you can soak in the golden waters in one of Ikaho Onsen's two springs. Also, this facility offers more than just bathing! You'll also want to check out the manga plaza, massage corner, table tennis facility, and rest area. And nothing says Japanese recreation like a game of ping-pong after a soak!

  • Kogane no Yu
    黄金の湯館
    • Address 550, Ikaho, Ikaho, Shibukawa, Gumma
    • Phone Number 0279-30-4100
    • ・Hours: 10:00AM-10:00PM Last entry: 9:30PM)
      ・Admission:
      Adults: 743 yen (10:00AM-3:00PM) / 1,073 yen (3:00-10:00PM)
      Children (ages 3 to elementary school): 440 yen (10:00AM-3:00PM) / 660 yen (3:00-10:00PM)
      ・Closed: Second Wednesday of every month

3. Ikaho Roten Buro (Open-Air Bath)

3. Ikaho Roten Buro (Open-Air Bath)

This is Kogane-no-Yu's open-air bath. (Please note that there is no washroom). It's also within walking distance from central Ikaho Onsen, so it's great to stop by during a stroll. On the way to the bath, there's also a place where you can actually sample the drinking water that comes from the spring! Now, you can fully experience the rejuvenating waters of the springs, from both inside and out!

  • Ikaho Roten Buro
    伊香保露天風呂
    • Address 581, Ikaho yumoto, Ikaho, Shibukawa, Gumma
    • Phone Number 0279-72-2488
    • ・Hours: 9:00AM-6:00PM (April-September) / 10:00AM-6:00PM (October-March)
      ・Last entry: 5:30PM
      ・Admission: Adults: 450 yen / Children: 200 yen (elementary school and younger)
      ・Closed: 1st and 3rd Thursday (Open if national holiday. No closings in August)

Recommended things to eat in Ikaho Onsen

1. Mizusawa Udon

1. Mizusawa Udon

With a history of 400 years, Mizusawa Udon is one of Japan's three most famous udon dishes in Japan, together with Sanuki Udon from Kagawa Prefecture and Inaniwa Udon from Akita Prefecture.

This dish originated from the hand-crafted udon noodles made for the visitors of Mizusawa Temple (Mizusawa Kannon), located in the Mizusawa district of Ikaho. The noodles are made with wheat flour from Gunma and the famous waters springing from Mount Mizusawa. They are characterized by their transparency, elasticity, and firm texture that will leave you wanting more!

In fact, the approach to Mizusawa Temple is also known as 'Mizusawa Udon Road'! Nearly 15 udon restaurants line the approach, so look around and pick the shop that best suits your taste!

2. Ikaho Soft Serve Ice Cream (Saro Sen)

2. Ikaho Soft Serve Ice Cream (Saro Sen)

There are lots of interesting shops along the Ikaho Stone Steps that are sure to catch your attention. However, the one generating all the buzz right now is Saro Sen, situated at the 263rd step.

The popular pick here is the 'Ikaho Kaoru Soft Serve Ice Cream' (650 yen), a vanilla soft-serve topped with sauce and an adorable monaka (a Japanese red-bean confectionary). It's the perfect way to cool down after a nice, hot bath.

  • Saro Sen
    茶楼 千
    • Address 12, Ikaho, Ikaho, Shibukawa, Gumma
    • Phone Number 0279-72-2275
    • ・Hours: 10:00AM-5:00PM
      ・Closed: Irregular days

3. Strawberry Drink

3. Strawberry Drink

STRAWBERRY BOMB, located on the 166th step of the Ikaho Stone Steps, is a cafe that serves up drinks made with strawberries from Gunma Prefecture, such as the Strawberry Milk (Reg: 500 yen / L: 600 yen), Strawberry Amazake (600 yen), and Strawberry Black Tea (300 yen). And from December to May, you'll even get a fresh strawberry topping on your drink, free!

  • STRAWBERRY BOMB
    STRAWBERRY BOMB
    • Address 69, Ikaho, Ikaho, Shibukawa, Gumma
    • ・Phone: None
      ・Hours: 10:00AM-6:00PM
      ・Closed: Irregular days

Recommended Ikaho Onsen souvenirs

1. Yunohana Manju

1. Yunohana Manju

Onsen Manju is a staple Japanese hot spring souvenir. However, its origin is actually said to be the Yunohana Manju from Ikaho Onsen.

Ikaho's onsen manju, characterized by its tan hue reminiscent of the spring's own golden waters, is made by wrapping red bean paste in a thin skin containing brown sugar.

In Ikaho Onsen, you'll find many selling Yunohana manju, including Kotobukiya, which also offers tsubuan manju, and Shogetsudo, said to be the birthplace of the manju itself!

2. Usaburo Kokeshi

2. Usaburo Kokeshi

Located just 15 minutes from Ikaho Onsen by car is Usaburo Kokeshi, a creative workshop where you can not only buy Japanese kokeshi dolls, but experience painting them for yourself! Usaburo Kokeshi dolls are a modern take on the traditional Japanese rounded, wooden figurines, and they're adorable, too!

The Ikaho Onsen kokeshi doll (2,750 yen) features the prefecture's local mascot, Gunma-chan, and makes the perfect souvenir for friends, family, and yourself!

6 Recommended places to stay in Ikaho Onsen

Ikaho Onsen, with its long history, is home to many Japanese-retro-style hot spring inns, surrounded by nature. And from these inns, our editorial department has carefully selected six accommodations that we think are definitely worth checking out!

Enjoying Ikaho Onsen in every season

Enjoying Ikaho Onsen in every season

Ikaho Onsen is located in the mountains so you can enjoy a different natural landscape every season! Come see the beautiful cherry blossoms and azaleas in the spring, fresh green trees in the summer, fabulous foliage in the fall, and a snowy wonderland in the winter.

Image courtesy of: Gugutto Gunma Photo Studio (http://gunma-dc.net/)
Image courtesy of: Gugutto Gunma Photo Studio (http://gunma-dc.net/)

The Ikaho Hawaiian Festival is an annual summer event held in partnership with Idaho's sister city, Hawaii County, Hawaii, USA. You won't want to miss the incredible hula performance by one of the world's top dance teams, set against the backdrop of the Ikaho Stone Steps!

The Ikaho Festival is another annual event, held every year at Ikaho Shrine from September 18-20 and said to mark the arrival of autumn. So if you visit during the fall, don't miss the inspiring display of power as the mikoshi shrine is carried all the way up the Ikaho Stone Steps!

Ikaho Onsen sightseeing attractions

Head out to Shibukawa City for even more recreational facilities surrounded by nature, including Ikaho Green Ranch, known for its delicious BBQs and entertaining sheepdog shows, and Shibukawa Skyland Park, for a fun adventure with your kids!

There are also several museums, including the Hara Museum ARC, with exhibits of contemporary art from Japan and abroad, and the Japan Chanson Museum, the first chanson-themed museum to open in the entire world!

Ikaho Onsen, with its striking Stone Steps and alluring nature, is easily accessible from the city center, making it a great choice for a trip. So head to Ikaho Onsen, indulge in delicacies such as udon and sweets, and soothe your soul in one (or both!) of the two types of relaxing springs!

*Information in article as of November 2022. Please see official websites for the latest updates and information.

English translation by: Krys Suzuki

Written by:

Ran Tanaka

Ran Tanaka

A writer based in Southeast Asia. Happy life is with cheap beer.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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