Winding Down in Gunma
In the heart of Japan, there is a crane with its wings spread wide. Can’t find it? Look closer at Gunma prefecture and you will see its outline. Literally translated as “herd of horses,” Gunma used to be the center of horse breeding. At only 100km away from Tokyo, it only takes about 50 minutes to get there using the Shinkansen. Aside from the production of Takasaki Daruma and Sosaku Kokeshi dolls, Gunma is famous for its onsen scattered throughout the mostly mountainous landscape.
With different flow rates and water compositions in its 200+ onsen, it is not difficult to find one that suits each visitor’s needs. Each type of onsen is said to offer different health and therapeutic effects can be experienced. For example, an onsen towards the acidic side would be good for chronic skin diseases, while a sulfur spring is said to be good for people with high blood pressure.
The four most famous onsen areas in Gunma are: Kusatsu, Ikaho, Minakami, and Shima. Kusatsu is perhaps the most famous of the four. It is often named the number one hot spring in all of Japan, attracting over three million visitors every year. While Kusatsu may be the most famous, the Ikaho onsen is perhaps the one with the most history.
It was mentioned in the famous Japanese text Manyoshu, which was compiled in the 8th century. The Minakami onsen area consists of nine different onsen resorts for visitors to enjoy. This area is also famous for ski resorts, so enjoy a long relaxing bath after a day of physical activity. The Shima resort area is said to have onsen that cure 40,000 types of illnesses. Its natural beauty captivates visitors while they are drawn in by the tranquil atmosphere of the onsen.
It is very important to follow onsen etiquette while you enjoy the onsen experience. The obvious includes no eating or drinking in the onsen or not drying yourself completely before leaving. The onsen water is not for cleaning yourself – there is an area to clean and wash before entering the water. Towels should not be brought into the onsen waters.
[post by Beth]
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