prefecture of Japan
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Gunma Prefecture (群馬県 Gunma-ken), occasionally spelled and always pronounced Gumma, is a prefecture in the Kanto region of Japan.

Understand edit

Gunma is a rural part of Japan with hot springs, a safari park, and plenty of hiking. For anime fans, Gunma is also the backdrop for the popular street racing/drifting anime Initial D.

Gunma is said to be shaped like a crane in flight. Shops across the prefecture sell locally-themed Jōmō karuta (上毛かるた, cards to learn the hiragana alphabet. Jomo is Gunma's old name), in which the つ (tsu) card reads Tsuru mau katachi no Gunma-ken (つる舞う形の群馬県, "Gunma prefecture which looks like a crane (tsuru) in flight").

In general, Gunma women are strong-hearted and they are called kakaa-tenka (mom's control). It means a man married a woman from Gunma is henpecked.

Climate edit

Gunma is famous for the strong karakkaze, or dry wind, which blows down from the Japanese Alps through much of the winter but carries little snow.

Tourist Information Site edit

Visit Gunma is the prefecture's official multilingual guide site.

Cities edit

Map of Gunma
Gunma Pref Map

Chũmō (中毛) - Central Gunma

  • 1 Maebashi (前橋) — the capital
  • 2 Shibukawa (渋川) — the belly button of Japan

Saimō (西毛) - Western Gunma

  • 3 Takasaki (高崎) — train line hub and home of the Daruma doll
  • 4 Tomioka (富岡) A small city known among Japanese for its silk factory, a UNESCO site. Location of the Gunma Safari Park.
  • 5 Fujioka (藤岡) Home of Mt. Sakura, famous for winter blooming cherry blossoms.

Tōmō (東毛) - Eastern Gunma

  • 6 Kiryu (桐生) — pachinko factories, prewar architecture, and gateway to the gorges and valleys of the upper Watarase River valley
  • 7 Isesaki (伊勢崎) Fastest growing city in Gunma. Quite multiracial for Japan with Brazilian, Peruvian and Indian/Pakistani immigrants.
  • 8 Midori   (みどり) A small newly-formed city located next to Kiryu. Home of the Tomihiro Art Museum, a museum dedicated to a quadriplegic artist, Tomihiro Hoshino.
  • 9 Ota (太田) — home of the Subaru headquarters and Japan's "Little Brazil". Also home to Gunma Kokusai Academy (a school that teaches in the medium of English).
  • 10 Tatebayashi (館林) a small city famous for azaleas and Bunbuku-chagama (racoon dog teakettle).

Hokumō (北毛) - Northern Gunma

  • 11 Kusatsu (草津) — hot spring resort. A fabulous place if you are a tourist. Home of Yubatake (hot water stirring), a show is put on where water is splashed using large wooden paddles. It is popular with tourists but the shows are frequent. It is a good photo opportunity. Go by bus, it takes too long by car and there is no train station there.
  • 12 Minakami (水上)
  • 13 Numata (沼田)

Other destinations edit

Get in edit

By train edit

Though very easy to get into by train, train service within the prefecture is very limited, particularly in the northern and western parts.

The Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo goes through Gunma on its way to Niigata. The Hokuriku (Nagano) Shinkansen takes the same route until Takasaki before branching off. For slower but much cheaper access, the Shonan-Shinjuku Line connects with the Takasaki Line to Takasaki.

Travel to the eastern part of the prefecture is slightly more difficult for those unfamiliar with the Japanese rail system. From Maebashi or Shin-Maebashi Stations a traveller can transfer to the Ryōmō Line to travel across the prefecture to Kiryu. Direct from Tokyo, the Tobu Rail Service provides the bulk of access to east Gunma from their hub at Asakusa Station. The red-striped Ryōmō Line limited express trains cost between ¥2340 and ¥2480 for service to Ota, Shin-Kiryu, or Akagi stations on the Akagi line; and costs ¥2280 to take a traveller to Isesaki or Shin-Isesaki on the Isesaki Line. Note that these trains share the lines until Ota station and use the same cars. Local trains are also available for ¥1000–1200; these add an hour of travel time in general.

By car edit

Gunma has the highest proportion of car owners among all prefectures in Japan, and the vehicle is the preferred method of transport. Rental stations are readily available throughout the prefecture for those familiar with it, but for a tourist the most accessible lots are on the east side of Takasaki Station.

Entering the prefecture, the Kan-Etsu Expressway runs north–south through the prefecture, parallel to the free (but heavily trafficked) National Route 17, for entry from Saitama Prefecture or Niigata Prefecture. From the East, the Kita-Kanto Expressway runs to Tochigi Prefecture, parallel to National Route 50.

Virtually all signage in Gunma is bilingual, even in the most distant areas.

Get around edit

See edit

Daruma dolls in Daruma-ji Temple, Takasaki

You can visit the Yubatake. This is Kusatsu-onsen's landmark waterfall and an unforgettable spot. 4437 litres every minute.

The Maebashi Prefectural Office is a towering coral-colored granite edifice topped and highlighted with purple glass, a symbol of great pride to Gunma residents. Draw your own conclusions about the symbolism while enjoying the view of the otherwise unremarkable capital city from its free observation deck.

You can visit Mt. Shirane, except in winter. On the top of Mt. Shirane, there are a lake called Yugama. Yugama is emerald green, but it seems to be change throughout the four seasons. The pH of the lake is about 1.0, so it is known as a lake where the acidity is the highest in the world. It is a famous sightseeing spot.

Do edit

  • Kusatsu is a very relaxing onsen (hot spring) area. Buy souvenirs such as Yunohana bath essence.
  • Go skiing in an active volcanic area at Mt. Shirane.
  • Drive and experience the hairpin turns in Initial D anime on Mt. Haruna.

Buy edit

Takasaki is the home of the daruma doll, a Japanese good luck charm modeled after the famous Buddhist sage Bodhidharma. According to popular lore, he sat meditating for so long that his legs atrophied and fell off — hence the doll's roly-poly egg shape. (In Japanese, snowmen are known as yuki daruma, lit. snow Darumas.) When buying one, it is customary to make a wish and paint one eye, then paint the other if the wish is granted.

There are lavender fields in Numata and Tatebayashi. Good place to refresh yourself.

Eat edit

Gunma is famous for its winter wheat products. Udon noodles from Mizusawa are considered among Japan's best. Tsumagoi is a famous center of green cabbage production. Gunma is a large producer of negi (long green onions). Shimonita negi are known throughout the country for their sweet flavor and soft and slippery texture when cooked (great for nabe, hot pot). Shimonita is also famous for konnyaku, a jellied substance made from konnyaku (devil's tongue) root. Konnyaku has little flavor of its own but absorbs the flavor of sauces or soups. It has very few calories so is a popular weight-control food.

Drink edit

Go next edit

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