Gunma has some pretty outstanding hot springs and Ikaho Onsen is surely an area that is worth considering if you're looking to get some seriously relaxing onsen time! Here some information about the area.
Gunma prefecture in dark green; Kanto region in light green
Ikaho Onsen is an area of Shibukawa City in the prefecture of Gunma, located on the western limit of the vast Kanto plain that encompasses the greater Tokyo metropolitan area.
Squeezed between a mountain chain to the west and the Kanto plain to the east, it's no coincidence that Gunma has some of the countries best hot springs!
And among the countless great hot spring resort towns in Japan, Ikaho Onsen stands out as one of the best and most emblematic of Gunma. Here's why.
Unique hot spring water that virtually only exists in this area of Japan
Footbath in Ikaho Onsen
Why the water is so unique has a lot to do with its high acidity level with a pH of around 2. That acidity is actually high enough to irritate the skin if you bathe too long, so you have to be careful not to stay too long in the water and to take a shower after coming out.
Benefits of high acidity in onsen water
That being said, if you bathe for the right amount of time, the water is likely to have great benefits for your skin! Because it acts as a potent disinfectant, it's said to be good to combat acne, athletes foot, and psoriasis for instance.
The effects of the onsen water should be indicated at the place you choose to go to. If you can't find the information, just ask the staff and they should tell you what it's good for and how long you should be bathing.
Ikaho Onsen Yokotetan is a 4-star hotel with beautiful Japanese-style tatami rooms (western-style rooms are also available if that's what you want), three different onsen rooms, and gorgeous Japanese course meals available at the restaurant. It's overall an excellent place to stay yet the price is around average so you do get great value for your money here. It costs around ¥20,000 per person per night.
This is an example of one seasonal Gunma dish they serve
Things to do in the area
Take a stroll in the 'stone stairs town'
Ikaho Onsen is known as the 'Ishidangai' or stone steps town in English. From the bottom of the steps to the highest point in town, there are a total of 365 steps. If you get tired climbing the steps, you can always take a wrest at one of the town's many hot spring footbaths or at some nice sweets or tea house along the way.
Your reward for climbing all those steps is that you'll reach the Ikaho Shrine of the Shinto religion. Although very small, it has been an important place of worship for centuries. You can buy the shrine's unique charm as a souvenir. A good idea might be to go there when the sun is about to set. Because it's located on the highest point of Ikaho Onsen, you get particularly beautiful sunset views from there.
Once you made it to the shrine, you should reward yourself with these popular freshly made sweet bean buns. They're made a place called Shogetsudo. Although it's a small shop, you're unlikely to miss it as there is nearly always a line to get into it.
Another emblem of the area is the arch bridge Kajika. The sight is particularly beautiful in the fall when the trees turn into bright red colours, just like the colour of the bridge itself.
If you have kids, Green Bokujo is a nice place to visit in the area. It's like a huge petting zoo with farm animals. There are some shows too, including the popular sheepdog show. They serve delish ice cream made on-site too. Be aware though that you have to pay for every activity within the park.
Location: 2844-1 Kanai, Shibukawa, Gunma Hours: 9AM - 4PM Price: ¥1,200 for adults, ¥600 for children 12 and under