If you want to discover the beauty of Japan’s countryside, consider listing Nakanojō Town in Gunma Prefecture as a place to visit on your next Japan trip. A large part of Nakanojō was the old Kuni Village, which was chosen to be the 41st village of Japan’s Most Beautiful Villages in 2005. With 92% of the area of Kuni Village covered with forests and plains, this part of Gunma Prefecture is rich in natural resources. In addition to the hot spring spots and stunning natural scenery, Kuni Village is also known as a spot that produces delicious vegetables, especially Maitake Mushrooms!
Because Kuni Village is located between Kusatsu Onsen and Shima Onsen, instead of spending a night in Kuni Village, you can stay at either of the hot spring towns or drive to some of the attractions listed below (^_-)-☆.
A List of Attractions in Nakanojō Town and Kuni Village
The below attractions are listed according to their distance to JR Nakanojō Station:
- Nakanojo Creative Cultural Center Tsumuji (中之条町ふるさと交流センターつむじ)
- Nakanojō Gardens (中之条ガーデンズ)
- Former Ōshi Station (太子駅跡)
- Important Traditional Buildings Preservation Area in Kuni Akaiwa (六合赤岩重要伝統的建造物群保存地区)
- Roadside Station Kuni (道の駅 六合)
- Nakanojō Hill Top Garden (中之条山の上庭園)
- Shinaki Dam (品木ダム) and Jōshū Yunoko Lake (上州湯の湖)
- Yodate Eight Falls (世立八滝)
- Shiriyaki Onsen (尻焼温泉)
- Chatsubomi Moss Park (チャツボミゴケ公園)
- Yoshigadaira Wetlands (芳ヶ平湿地群/芳ヶ平湿原)
- Nozori Lake (野反湖)
- Nozori Lake Campground (野反湖キャンプ場)
Nozori Lake (野反湖), Yoshigadaira (芳ヶ平), and Kuresaka Kōgen (暮坂高原) are known as The Three Views of Kuni Village (六合三景). These destinations are the top spots in Nakanojō for rare alpine plants and spectacular views.
Nakanojō Creative Cultural Center Tsumuji (中之条町ふるさと交流センターつむじ)
A place you can head to while waiting for the train back to Tokyo is Nakanojō Creative Cultural Center Tsumuji. The complex has several facilities, including gallery space, cafes, restaurants, a foot spa, a gelato shop, and souvenir shops. Nakanojō Town Tourism Association is also located there. So if you need any sightseeing information, stop by Nakanojō Creative Cultural Center Tsumuji first!
It is also the main venue of the international art event, Nakanojō Biennale (中之条ビエンナーレ)!
Tip: There are towels to dry your feet after utilizing the foot spa, which can be purchased at Nakanojō Town Tourism Association for 50 yen.
Nakanojō Creative Cultural Center Tsumuji’s Opening Hours and Access Information
- Nakanojō Creative Cultural Center is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm except for Thursdays.
- Nakanojō Creative Cultural Center Tsumuji is a 15-minute walk from JR Nakanojō Station.
- The parking lot is usually full. If it is full, you can park at Nakanojō Town Hall’s (中之条役場) parking lot.
Nakanojō Gardens (中之条ガーデンズ)
Important Traditional Buildings Preservation Area in Kuni Akaiwa (六合赤岩重要伝統的建造物群保存地区)
In Kuni Village’s south, the Akaiwa District was the first designated National Important Traditional Buildings Preservation Area (国の重要伝統的建造物群保存地区) in Gunma Prefecture.
Akaiwa is a village where many sericulture farmer residences are located. In a small village like Akaiwa, silk farming and textile-making helped support the livelihood of commoners in addition to crop-growing. Sericulture in Akaiwa thrived until around 1965.
In a house at the corner of the village, there is an exhibition corner to preserve the history of sericulture. Tools and instruction manuals used for sericulture are on display which paints a picture of the busy lives of the village women in that era.
Many buildings in the village were constructed from the second half of the 18th century to the early 19th century when the Samurais were still in charge of Japan. The two Kannondō temples (観音堂) were reconstructed in 1764 and 1811, respectively. The Bishamondō (毘沙門堂), Akaiwa Shrine (赤岩神社), and the watermill were thought to be buildings from the mid-Edo period.
What is worthwhile to mention is the watermill used to grind buckwheat is still currently used!
Akaiwa Fureainchi (赤岩ふれあい家) is a community center. There is a parking lot and toilets there. If you understand Japanese, you can also apply for a local tour guide.
- The 60-minute tour costs 2,000 yen.
- Please apply at least one week beforehand by calling +81-279-95-3008.
You can also join the plaited cord workshops (組みひも体験) when you visit the Important Traditional Buildings Preservation Area in Kuni Akaiwa.
Spending an hour there is sufficient if you don’t want to participate in the plaited cord workshops.
Important Traditional Buildings Preservation Areas in Kuni Akaiwa’s Opening Hours and Access Information
- Kuni Akaiwa District is open daily except Thursdays from 9 am to 4 pm.
- From JR Naganohara Kusatsuguchi Station (長野原草津口), take Kuni Chiku Rosen Bus (六合地区路線バス) and get off at Minami Ōhashi (南大橋).
- Note that the bus services are limited. The Japanese timetable can be found on Nakanojō’s website HERE.
Former Ōshi Station (太子駅跡)
If you love restored historical sites or are a relic enthusiast, Former Ōshi Station should be on your to-visit list since it is close to many attractions around Nakanojō Town. The station from World War II is now a spot for you to envision what a Japanese train station was like in the 20th century.
For more information, refer to our article on the Former Ōshi Station!
Roadside Station Kuni (道の駅 六合)
If you visit Kuni Onsen from Kusatsu Onsen or Shiriyaki Onsen, Roadside Station Kuni is the first stop at Kuni Onsen that you can stop by. Like other roadside stations in Japan, you can get sightseeing information, local specialities, fresh products, handicrafts, desserts, and light meals there. But the complex is a lot bigger as it consists of a couple of facilities in different houses.
Dried flowers from the Nakanojō Hill Top Garden at the nearby plateau are also sold at Roadside Station Kuni. There is even a hot spring facility for day visitors, as well as a small accommodation facility!
☛ Fresh vegetables and fruits are usually sold out before closing, so we recommend visiting Roadside Station Kuni early if that is what you are after.
☛ If you want to try out something special, the spicy maitake mushroom miso-flavored Kuni Manjū (六合饅頭) sold at Oyasumi-dokoro Kuni (お休み処くに) is surprisingly delicious. The cafe also sells Pinto bean gelato too. Also, the rich Pinto bean flavored soft serve sold at Restaurant Kuni no Sato Shirasuna is a must-try!
Restaurant Kuni no Sato Shirasuna (食事処 六合の郷しらすな)
Kuni no Sato Shirasuna combines a tourist information center, a free rest area, and a restaurant. Handmade soba noodles made from 80% buckwheat flour and vegetables and maitake mushroom tempuras are highly recommended. The vegetable dishes there are delicious too!
Whether it is udon or soba noodles, the portion is pretty big! So there is no need to worry about feeling hungry when finishing your food.
In summer, the recommended dish is Asama Soba (浅間そば), topped with finely sliced radish resonating a snow-capped Mt. Asama.
Important: The noodle dipping sauce and broth are not vegetarian.
Ōdoku Onsen Kutsurogi no Yu (応徳温泉 くつろぎの湯)
Another highlight of Roadside Station Kuni is its hot spring facility, with onsen flowing non-stop from the spring source. Enjoying the nice onsen here will only cost you 400 yen (300 yen for children from 3 to junior high school students)!
This hot spring source was discovered in the Heian period during the Ōdoku era, which is why it was named after the era. What is special about the Ōdoku Onsen’s base is that the crystal formed is black. So while the spring is sulphur-based like Kusatsu Onsen, the minerals will most likely differ.
You can also spend a night at its accommodation facility, Oyado Hanamame (お宿花まめ).
As a side note, the Reiwa Emperor bathed at Ōdoku Onsen after he hiked Mt. Shirasuna (白砂山)!
Roadside Station Kuni’s Opening Hours and Access Information
- Roadside Station Kuni is open daily except Tuesdays from 9 am to 5 pm.
- It is closed at the beginning of January.
- Ōdoku Onsen is open from 10 am to 8 pm.
- The last admission is at 7:30 pm.
- From JR Naganohara Kusatsuguchi Station (長野原草津口), take Kuni Chiku Rosen Bus (六合地区路線バス) and get off at Michi no Eki Kuni (道の駅六合).
- Note that the bus services are limited. The Japanese timetable can be found on Nakanojō’s website HERE.
Tip: The toilet facility at Roadside Station Kuni is open 24/7.
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 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 kinds of plants. Because the flowering season differs in each area, at least some parts of the garden will still be colorful when you visit it!
For more information, refer to our article on Nakanojō Hill Top Garden!
Shinaki Dam (品木ダム) and Jōshū Yunoko Lake (上州湯の湖)
If you are a dam fan, remember to drop by Shinaki Dam. Jōshū Yunoko Lake is the dam lake of Shinaki Dam close to Kusatsu Onsen. Because of the levels of minerals in the water, the lake has a gorgeous emerald-green color! Unlike many dams constructed for a stable water source and hydroelectric power generation, Shinaki Dam was built to neutralize the acidic river. Although the Shinaki Village is now under the water, aquatic life can live in the Agatsuma River (吾妻川) after the dam’s completion.
As liquid lime is used to neutralize the water’s strong acidity, a large amount of sediment is formed and accumulates at the bottom of Shinaki Dam. So when you visit Jōshūyunoko Lake, you might be able to observe the sediment removal process!
☛ There is a toilet at Shinaki Dam.
☛ Shinaki Dam’s dam card can be obtained from the factory’s museum reception that produces liquid lime.
How to Get to Shinaki Dam and Jōshū Yunoko Lake
- Shinaki Dam and Jōshū Yunoko Lake are around a 10-minute drive from Kusatsu Onsen or a 10 to 15-minute drive from Roadside Station Kuni.
Yodate Eight Falls (世立八滝)
If you love hiking, consider including Yodate Eight Falls on your itinerary. The waterfall group upstream of Shirasuna River (白砂川) in Kuni Village consist of eight waterfalls, each having its charm. If you understand Japanese or will be accompanied by an interpreter, you can even sign up for a canyoning tour to enjoy the waterfalls more thrillingly!
For more information, refer to our article on Yodate Eight Falls!
Shiriyaki Onsen (尻焼温泉)
If you love adventures and visiting hidden gems, Shiriyaki Onsen is the perfect spot for you. Instead of a hot spring pool, you bathe in a natural river with hot springs flowing.
You won’t be asked to bathe naked unless you want to. But remember to bring towels and a swimming suit as public photography is allowed there!
For more information, refer to our article on Shiriyaki Onsen!
Chatsubomi Moss Park (チャツボミゴケ公園)
Moss is commonly seen across gardens in Japan. If you have a particular love towards the gorgeous green plant, visit Chatsubomi Moss Park! The moss growing in the park is not one of the common kinds, but it can only be nurtured by the strong acidic mineral springs.
For more information, refer to our article on Chatsubomi Moss Park!
Yoshigadaira Wetlands (芳ヶ平湿地群/芳ヶ平湿原)
Yoshigadaira Wetlands is one of the best high-altitude wetland areas in Japan. So far, 442 plant species, including endangered species, 20 animal species, 62 wild bird species, and 14 dragonfly species, have been confirmed living in Yoshigadaira Wetlands. The spot is so precious that it is a site in the Ramsar Convention treaty for nature conservation.
In autumn, how about taking a hike from Chatsubomi Moss Park to adore the vivid fall colors?
Located between Nakanojō and Kusatsu Town, Yoshigadaira Wetlands were created by the volcanic activities of Mt. Kusatsu Shirane (草津白根山). When you step into the wetlands, you will be greeted by magnificent natural views created by various alpine plants.
The ground of Yoshigadaira Wetlands is huge and covers many hills and mountains of various elevations. From Mt. Kusatsu Shirane’s Yugama at an altitude of 2,160 meters to Chatsubomi Moss Park at an altitude of 1,200 meters, the spots are all within Yoshigadaira Wetlands.
If you enjoy hiking, there are several hiking routes in Yoshigadaira Wetlands. To enter Yoshigadaira Wetlands, there are three trailheads. But there are a few things to note for each trailhead. However, it shouldn’t be hard to navigate once you get to the trailhead. There are road signs with English notations.
- Shibu Tōge Pass (渋峠)
- A car is required to get there. It is the highest point of Japan’s national highway.
- Chatsubomi Moss Park (チャツボミゴケ公園)
- Access time is limited to the park’s opening hours.
- Around 500 meters from Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort (草津温泉スキー場)
- The trailhead’s location can be confusing, but you can check with the resort’s staff.
For various hiking trails in Yoshigadaira Wetlands, refer to the official website HERE. While in Japanese only, you can match the course’s name listed under the map to get a rough idea of the distance of each course. If you don’t read Japanese, you can use it in conjunction with Google Maps.
The Rules to Be Followed When Visiting Yoshigadaira Wetlands
- Walk on the designated mountain trails only.
- Please refrain from touching any animals or plants.
- Take your rubbish home with you.
- Do not bring or take any plants that don’t belong t the wetlands with you.
Nozori Lake (野反湖)
Nozori Lake is a must-go attraction in Kuni Village. As it is located at an altitude of 1,513 meters, it would feel like you are getting closer to the sky and the clouds, given that Nozori Lake is also known as “Sky Lake (天空の湖)” or “Sky Paradise (天空の楽園)”. Whether it is trekking, hiking, camping or just a relaxing stroll, there are several ways you can enjoy the lake surrounded by mountains that are more than 2,000 meters in height!
The flowers of more than 300 alpine plants, including azalea, will start coloring the lakeshore in late June. From early to mid-July, the yellow flowers of dwarf daylily will make one side of the hill around the lake even more colorful and lively!
Nozori Pass Rest House Hana no Eki (野反峠休憩舎・花の駅)
The Nozori Pass Rest House Hana no Eki at Nozori Lake’s south is where a cafe and toilet facilities are located. Light meals such as pizzas and noodles are served in the cafe. After a hike, you can also visit the resthouse for some delicious cakes. It should be noted that their cheesecakes and blueberry juice are really popular!
Important: The noodle soup is not vegetarian-based.
From the resting space next to the rest house, you can overlook Nozori Lake, perfect for a picnic! And when you are ready to go, follow the promenade next to the rest house to head down to the azure Nozori Lake!
☛ Nozori Lake’s fall foliage season starts in early October.
☛ Although the dam is mostly invisible, Nozori Lake is a dam lake, making it the highest dam lake in Japan. So if you want to collect Nozori Dam’s dam card, visit the camping ground’s reception or Nozoriko Tenbodai Information Center (野反湖畔展望台兼案内所).
☛ Please submit a hiking notification at the Nozoriko Lodge if you plan to challenge the harder and longer hiking courses.
☛ Nozori Lake is not accessible from late November to late April.
How to Get to Nozori Lake
- From JR Naganohara Kusatsuguchi Station (長野原草津口), take Kuni Chiku Rosen Bus (六合地区路線バス) and get off at Nozori Lake (野反湖).
Nozori Lake Campground (野反湖キャンプ場)
For those who love to spend a night at the lakeshore, make a reservation with Nozori Lake Campground! It is one of the best camping grounds in Japan. At night, you will be amazed by a sky full of stars!
The good thing about Nozori Lake Campground is that you can set up your tent anywhere in the camping ground. But just note that the number of tents allowed in the area is limited, so arrive early in summer!
The camping ground is open from early May to early November. Besides the camping area, there are also bungalows that you can reserve.
For more information and to reserve one, refer to the official website HERE. You can translate it to English using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.
Important: Purchasing everything you need for camping before heading to Nozori Lake Campground is best, as the reception has limited options.
Just note you can’t drive through the camping ground. From the car park to the camping ground, it is around a 10 to 20-minute walk up and down the hill, which can be tiring, especially in summer.
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.