CENTRAL GUNMA (MAEBASHI)
Maebashi is located at the foot of Mt. Akagi and is blessed with the beautiful waters of the Tone and Hirose rivers. If you have time, visit the 153-meter-tall prefectural building, the tallest prefectural government building in Japan excluding the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Tower. It offers great views of the mountains from the free observatory on the 32nd floor.
Some of the largest pork shipments in Japan come from Maebashi and it is known for tasty pork. Many restaurants in the city serve a variety of pork dishes, including pork shabu shabu (thinly sliced pork submerged in boiling water for a few seconds, then dipped in a sauce), pork soup, and horumon (pork giblets). You must try souce katsudon (pork cutlet on rice topped with Worcestershire-like sauce), said to have originated in Gunma. The tender pork and crispy batter with sauce-soaked rice is yummy!
The dome northwest of Maebashi Station is the Green Dome Maebashi, Japan’s first allweather indoor track for keirin, track cycling races originating in Japan. Enjoy the unique atmosphere heavy with the excitement of fast racers and the excited audience.
Ikaho Onsen, a hot spring resort located 800 meters above sea level on the slopes of Mt. Haruna, is one of the four major hot spring resorts in the prefecture along with Kusatsu, Minakami, and Shima. The stone stairway at the center of the town is a symbol of Ikaho and game halls and souvenir shops line both sides. Kogane-no-Yu is one of the water sources for Ikaho and is said to have been one since the 6th century. The water is originally transparent but turns brownish-red on contact with the air because the water contains a large amount of iron. The bath of the municipal Ikaho Onsen Rotenburo (open-air bath) is filled with the pure hot spring water, naturally heated and no water added. Ikaho’s must-try food is the brownishred onsen manju, cakes with bean paste similar in color to Kogane-no-Yu. Now, a variety of onsen manju are sold at hot spring resorts all over Japan but Ikaho’s was the first of its kind.
Mizusawa udon (wheat noodles) is a specialty of Mizusawa, a town near Ikaho. It is known as one of the three best udon in Japan, along with Sanuki udon of Kagawa Prefecture and Inaniwa udon of Akita Prefecture. The thick noodles with nice, firm texture pleasantly slip down the throat. There are more than ten udon restaurants in this area alone. Don’t miss this taste treat!