Nakanojō (中之条町) is a town in Gunma Prefecture where more than 80 per cent of the area consists of mountains and forests. Just like you would have guessed, the town is the most popular tourist destination in Agatsuma District (吾妻郡), where Nakanojō town is located. Aside from the two hot spring resorts that most visitors would head to, there are two botanical gardens in Nakanojō that remain hidden gems to tourists, so it would be a shame if you don’t stop by!
Nestled in the mountains of Nakanojō, Nakanojō Hill Top Garden and Nakanojō Gardens are must-visit spots from spring to autumn if you plan to head to Kuni Onsen (六合温泉) and/or Shima Onsen (四万温泉). The gardens around 20km apart are sister facilities with their charms. Especially for those who enjoy afternoon tea by the garden filled with flowers, these two gardens are the perfect spots to spend an hour or two when you visit the area.
Nakanojō Hill Top Garden (中之条山の上庭園)
A place you can stop by after your visit to Kuni Onsen is Nakanojō Hill Top Garden. The spot is in fact more than just a garden filled with thousands of plants. Located at Kuresaka Kōgen (暮坂高原), it is like a roadside station where you can obtain Kuresaka Kōgen’s sightseeing information, as well as dine and participate in workshops.
Local specialties and fresh products are also sold at Nakanojō Hill Top Garden. In addition, it was also one of Japan’s venues for the Biennale international art exhibition.
The 12 hectares hill behind the resthouse has more than 500 different kinds of plants planted, including more than 200 different types of herbs. The hill is divided into areas, each with different categories of plants. Because the flowering season differs in each area, remember to check out the garden map for the best part of the hill to visit when you get there!
If you like alpine flowers and herbs, the resthouse in front of the parking lot is where you can purchase fresh or dry flowers and herbs planted in the garden. Cute handicrafts can also be found there, as well as a cafe in the resthouse. While we haven’t been able to confirm if the below popular dishes are vegetarian, we thought to list them for you anyways:
- Inaka Pasta (田舎パスタ): There were plenty of mushrooms and vegetables in the pasta.
- Kuni Curry (六合カレー): The signature dish at the restaurant. The curry contains huge pinto beans which are harvested locally.
Although it would be hard for the chef to prepare non-vegetarian curry dishes as they would have already included meat and seafood beforehand, they can likely prepare the Inaka Pasta vegetarian. For this purpose, you can utilize the phrases in our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article (^_-)-☆.
Workshops at Nakanojō Hill Top Garden
For those who enjoy crafting, you will surely enjoy the workshops there, especially their wreath-making classes. You can choose the workshop that suits your time constraints. The longer you can spend at Nakanojō Hill Top Garden, the more complex your final product can be.
The workshop corner has many dried flowers, nuts, grass, leaves, and even beans for you to choose from. All you need to do is glue the materials together.
And there is no need to worry or stress if this is your first time making something by hand. The staff will kindly guide you and ensure what you bring home is satisfactory.
If you prefer to just observe, there is a small gallery for you to adore artworks made of flowers and traditional decor.
- If you are interested, please reserve by calling +81-279-80-7123 at least one day in advance.
- Note that credit cards aren’t accepted.
- There are 2 sessions you can choose from; 10 am or 2 pm.
- The minimum cost of the workshop is 2,000 yen.
- The required time is between 90 to 180 minutes, depending on the workshop you decide to join.
- Refer to HERE for a list of workshops available. You can translate the webpage by using Google Chrome.
Nakanojō Hill Top Garden’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Nakanojō Hill Top Garden is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm from mid-April to late December.
- The coffee stand is open from 10 am to 4 pm.
- Nakanojō Hill Top Garden is around a 30-minute drive from JR Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station (長野原草津口駅). Unfortunately, no bus service connects the train station to the garden.
Nakanojō Gardens (中之条ガーデンズ)
Nakanojō Gardens is just around a 10-minute drive from Nakanojō’s town center. If you are heading up to Shima Onsen, this garden is definitely worth an hour of your time.
The attraction, re-opened in 2021, has a lot more commonly known flowers, such as roses, cherry blossoms, and hydrangeas. The 120,000-square-meter ground has seven gardens, including a rose garden that grows about 400 types of roses, a spiral flower garden with a diameter of 40 meters, and a pallet garden that blooms with herbs and perennials.
The park-size garden is well-planned, so from March to November, the landscape is always beautifully colored. In fact, many visitors would rank the garden as one of the best floral spots in Japan!
Benches and chairs are also placed for you to rest on if you need to take a break from strolling. The best spot to relax is Rose Cafe on a sunny day, especially during the rose season!
If you visit the garden with children, there are also two kid-friendly zones for them to burn their energy.
In April, one side of Nakanojō Gardens is pink from the 1,000 plus cherry and peach blossoms. You will surely love the elegant fragrance of the gorgeous flowers too. Then in May, azaleas and wisteria bloom before roses take over in June and again in October!
We also want to highlight that the locals are planting peach blossoms along the 20km road connecting the two garden attractions. When the “Hanamomo Kaidō (花桃街道)” is completed, that adds another reason to visit the gardens at Nakanojō!
Workshops at Nakanojō Gardens
Like Nakanojō Hill Top Garden, workshops are held at Nakanojō Gardens but with different activities. Instead of dried flower decor, you can enjoy plant dyeing or pottery making at Nakanojō Gardens. If you are more interested in readily made handicrafts, there are shops that have items for you to purchase.
If you like pottery making, please note that you won’t be able to bring back the final product on the day as further processing, such as drying and firing is required. The garden will ship your craft out in around a month’s time. However, they most likely won’t be able to do international shipping.
For more information, refer to Nakanojō Gardens’ workshop page HERE. You can translate it to English by using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.
Tip: If you visit Nakanojō Gardens by car in autumn, check out the apple orchards close by!
Nakanojō Gardens’s Business Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information
- Nakanojō Hill Top Garden is open from:
- 9 am to 5 pm daily from March to November.
- 9 am to 4 pm from December to February.
- The last admission is taken 30 minutes before closing time.
- The garden is closed from the end of December to the beginning of January.
- The admission fee is:
- 800 yen for adults
- 400 yen for elementary and junior high school students
- Nakanojō Gardens is around a 10-minute drive from JR Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station (長野原草津口駅).
- While the number of services is limited, you can also take a bus from JR Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station.
- Refer to HERE for the bus timetable and translate it into English.
Discover Other Attractions Nearby in Nakanojō
If you want to enjoy Guma Prefecture’s rural area, Nakanojō can be a nice option. It has one of the prefecture’s most famous hot spring towns, a gorgeous moss park, a few flower gardens, and more!
All of these attractions aren’t too far away from the two gardens. So refer to our article on Kuni Village, the old name for a large part of Nakanojō!
Discover Kusatsu Onsen
If you haven’t already, plan a visit to Kusatsu Onsen, one of Japan’s most well-known hot spring towns!
In addition to the public and communal bathhouses, Kusatsu Onsen has a lot to offer. Whether it is soba noodles, traditional sweets or outdoor activities, such as obstacle courses and skiing, you surely won’t be bored at Kusatsu Onsen!
For more information, refer to our article on Kusatsu Onsen (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.