Vegetarian's Japan Guide

The Best Guide to Haruna Shrine, Mt. Haruna, and Lake Haruna

About 5km southwest of Ikaho Onsen, the Haruna area in Takasaki City is where many tourists would venture out to when they visit the hot spring town. In fact, it is the city’s most popular outdoor destination. The area is filled with stunning nature, suitable for various outdoor activities and a shrine with more than 1,400 years of history! On the shore of Lake Haruna, there are campgrounds, sightseeing boat docks, and a ropeway, giving you various options to enjoy the stunning lake! Rental bicycles are also available!

A 20-minute drive from Lake Haruna, Haruna Shrine is another popular tourist spot for its amazingly built architecture and landscape. Because the trio are so close to each other, you can visit all three of them in one day!

The best route for the day is to visit Haruna Shrine in the early morning to avoid the crowds. After exploring and praying at the shrine, drive or take a bus to Lake Haruna to experience a different kind of natural scenery and other outdoor activities!

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How to Get to Lake Haruna

  • From JR Takasaki Station west exit (高崎駅西口), take the Gunma Bus service bound for Lake Haruna (榛名湖畔行) and get off at Harunako (榛名湖).
    • Note that there is only one service available every hour.
  • If you plan to come from Ikaho Onsen, take the Gunma Bus service bound for Harunako Onsen Yusuge (湖温泉ゆうすげ行) and get off at the terminal stop.
    • Note that there is only one service available every 30 to 60 minutes.

Lake Haruna (榛名湖) and Mt. Haruna (榛名山)

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Formed into a beautiful cone shape, Mt. Haruna at 1,391m is known as Haruna’s Mt. Fuji (榛名富士). When it is reflected on Lake Haruna, the breathtaking scenery resembles how Mt. Fuji would reflect on Kawaguchiko!

Similar to Mt. Fuji, Mt. Haruna is also a volcano, and its volcanic activity created Lake Haruna. The lake, at an altitude of 1,100 meters, is the second-highest-altitude lake in Japan. As its circumference is just 4.8km, you only need around 90 to 120 minutes to go around Lake Haruna.

But, the stunning lake was not a tourist spot until the early 20th century. In winter, the frozen Lake Haruna, with Mt. Haruna and the surrounding mountains as a backdrop, has attracted professional photographers every year.

If you love hiking, the hiking courses in Mt. Haruna have different difficulty levels, with some suitable for beginners and families. On the other hand, you can also take things easy and take the ropeway up to Mt. Haruna’s summit for a panoramic view of Lake Haruna and the Kantō Plain (関東平野).

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Mt. Haruna’s Profile

It was determined that Mt. Haruna started erupting as a volcano 500,000 years ago. Around 250,000 years ago, it was said that the volcano had a height of 2,800 meters, comparable to the current Japanese Alps. However, a large-scale eruption occurred 220,000 years ago. Unfortunately, it blew off the top of the mountain and Mt. Haruna’s height was halved. After that, the volcanic activity stopped until 50,000 years ago. During the 150,000-year break, the original shape of Lake Haruna was formed. The most recent eruption occurred around the 6th century.

Lake Haruna’s Fall Foliage Season

Lake Haruna’s autumn foliage season is usually from late October to mid-November.

Hiking Mt. Haruna

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Mt. Haruna has three hiking trails. If you take the shortest one, you can reach the summit in around 80 minutes. As the mountain trails are well maintained, you might see many young families along the trail. If you don’t have the energy to walk back down, that is okay! The cable car of the ropeway can take you down within minutes!

While in Japanese, you can refer to HERE and HERE for Lake Haruna’s map. They mark the hiking trails, indicating what you can do at each part of the lake and flowers that can be adorned.

The two trailheads are located close to Yusuge Onsen (榛名湖温泉 ゆうすげ元湯) on the north and the Gunma Prefectural Haruna Park Visitor Center (群馬県立榛名公園ビジターセンター) on the south. If you plan to drive, it is better to start the hike from the visitor center. To get to the trailhead, head towards Harunasan Ropeway, and you should see it in no time. As it is a little hard to notice, be careful not to go past it.

Note that the mountain trail on the north side is a little rough, so be careful as you walk down!

Lake Haruna Sightseeing Boat Hakuchōmaru (榛名湖遊覧船 はくちょう丸)

Lake Haruna’s sightseeing boat is in the shape of a swan. It will cruise around the lake for around 20 minutes to allow you to enjoy the surrounding scenery from different angles. The boat’s ticket can be purchased from Harunako Resthouse (榛名湖レストハウス) at the back of the boat dock.

Hakuchōmaru has two stories with indoor seats on the first floor. When the weather is warm, head to the deck above for cool breezes!

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The current Hakuchōmaru is the second generation that has been touring Lake Haruna since 1986. The first generation served between 1973 to 1986.

Lake Haruna Sightseeing Boat Hakuchōmaru’s Operating Hours, Cost, and Access Information

  • Hakuchōmaru does not have a set departure time but will operate if there are a couple of customers.
  • The boat’s operating period is from mid-April to late November.
  • The operating time is from 9 am to 4:30 pm.
  • The cost is:
    • 700 yen for adults
    • 350 yen for children
  • The boat deck is less than a minute’s walk from the bus stop, Harunako (榛名湖).

Small Leasure Boat Rental at Lake Haruna

If you want to cruise around Lake Haruna at your own pace, there are a couple of small pleasure boat rental shops around Harunako Resthouse. In fact, Harunako Resthouse also provides small pleasure boat rental services.

There are different types of small boats available, including the cute swan boat. Choose one that most suits your mood!

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All of the below boat rental shops also provide light meals and desserts. But note that the broth/sauce used for noodle soups contains meat/seafood extracts. You can also purchase souvenirs here.

Lake Haruna Carriage Tour (榛名湖湖畔 トテ馬車)

If you want to explore Lake Haruna’s beauty in style, how about hiring a horse-drawn carriage? Traveling between Haruna Tourist Information Center (榛名観光案内所) at the lake’s south and Harunako Ropeway Station, the 20-minute tour in the horse carriage is the best way to start your visit to Lake Haruna. On a hot summer day, going around Lake Haruna, shaded by the carriage’s roof, is a great way to stay cool while enjoying the scenic view of the surrounding nature.

You can also pet the horses and take pictures with them. It will surely be a good memory, especially if you travel with children.

Lake Haruna Carriage Tour’s Operating Hours, Cost, and Access Information

  • Lake Haruna Carriage Tour is available from 10 am to 3 pm from April to November.
  • The cost is between 500 yen to 2,500 yen, depending on the course you choose.

Harunasan Ropeway (榛名山ロープウェイ)

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The fastest way to get to Mt. Haruna’s summit is by taking Harunasan Ropeway. In just around 3 minutes, you can get from the ropeway station at the lakeshore to the mountaintop ropeway station. The magnificent views of Mt. Akagi (赤城山), Chichibu and Mt. Tanigawa mountain range, followed by the Japanese Alps, can be admired from the observation area next to the station.

When the weather is good, you can even see Mt. Fuji!

Note that only a part of Lake Haruna can be seen from the observation area at the summit. So snap some photos when you are in the cable car!

Tips:
☛ Toilet facilities are available at the summit station.
☛ Harunasan Ropeway operates on the 1st of January to allow you to see the sunrise from the summit!

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Important: It is best to hold onto something inside the cable car as it tends to swing more than usual.

You can also hike to or from Gunma Prefectural Haruna Park Visitor Center (群馬県立榛名公園ビジターセンター). But hiking shoes are required as the trail can be quite slippery. The hike will take around an hour.

Haruna Fujisan Shrine (榛名富士山神社)

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Following the promenade from the Summit Station (山頂駅), you can get to Haruna Fujisan Shrine in 5 to 10 minutes. The shrine that belonged to Haruna Shrine was restored in 1964. It is known as a spot to pray for safe childbirth and relationship-related matters.

You can purchase the wooden ema plaque and write your wishes on the back before hanging it at the shrine.

Harunasan Ropeway’s Operation Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Harunasan Ropeway operates on a 15-minute interval from:
    • 9 am to 5 pm from April to November
    • 9 am to 4 pm from December to March
    • The last cable car uphill departs 30 minutes before closure.
  • The cost is:
    • 500 yen for a one-way ticket
    • 950 yen for a return ticket
    • The cost for elementary school students is half of the adult price.
  • The ropeway station is a 20-minute walk from the bus stop, Harunako (榛名湖).
  • If you take a bus from Ikaho Onsen, get off at Ropeway-mae (ロープウェイ前).

Haruna-kohan no Yado Memorial Park (榛名湖畔の宿 記念公園)

On the west side of Lake Haruna, there is a small park with two female statues. This memorial park is to commemorate a letter/song written during WWII by a famous Japanese poet and composer, Satō Sōnosuke (佐藤惣之助). At the time, Sōnosuke often visited Lake Hanura because his second wife was from Maebashi City, located not far away from the lake. It was determined that the ryokan he stayed at was Kohantei (湖畔亭), which used to be close to the park. The song was written based on the letter addressed to his favourite waitress at the ryokan where he stayed.

When you stand in front of the song’s monument, his song Kohan no Yado (湖畔の宿) will flow. It is a sad song that was written to describe the emotions that Sōnosuke experienced when he stayed at Kohantei. As you listen to the song with the view of Lake Haruna in front of you, can you feel Sōnosuke’s loneliness when he wrote the letter/song?

  • If you plan to come from JR Takasaki Station, get off at Harunako (榛名湖). The ryokan is then a 5-minute walk.

Tip: Haruna-kohan no Yado Memorial Park offers the best view of Mt. Haruna.

Suzuriiwa (硯岩)

Lake Haruna and Mt. Haruna Takasaki Gunma Japan
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Suzuriiwa is an off-the-beaten-path spot where you can overlook Lake Haruna. It is a low mountain that you can get to the top in 30 minutes by hiking the mountain trail covered by rich vegetation. You will certainly benefit from venturing out to the wild during the hike. A Japanese serow might even show up on the way!

From the top of Suzuriiwa, the view you will get is a collaboration of both Mt. Haruna and Lake Haruna!

Note that a large part of the trail is an earthen road, and the second part is relatively steep. It is best to hold onto the handrail as you climb up and down.

Suzuriiwa’s trailhead at the side of Prefectural Road 28 is at the back of Harunakosō (榛名湖荘). It is also the trailhead of Mt. Kamongadake (掃部ヶ岳). If you plan to take a bus, get off at Agatsumasō-mae (吾妻荘前).

Important:
☛ Follow the direction signs as the mountain trail splits along the way. One of them leads to Mt. Kamongadake.
☛ Bring a bear bell, as bears have been spotted in the area.
☛ There are no fences at Suzuriiwa, so be careful when adoring the scenery.

Harunako Yusuge Onsen (榛名湖温泉 ゆうすげ元湯)

If you want to enjoy the hot spring when visiting Lake Haruna, Yusuge Onsen at the lakeshore is the spot to visit and/or stay for a night. It is the only natural onsen facility in the area. You can get a wide view of Lake Haruna from the ryokan’s guestrooms and open-air baths!

While old, the ryokan is known for its cleanliness and great hospitality. If you run into any issues during your stay, let the staff know; they will most likely resolve it for you as soon as possible.

Harunako Yusuge Onsen also has a restaurant that serves lunch. But note that the broth and dipping sauce contain fish extract.

  • The hot spring pools are open for ryokan guests from check-in to 8:30 am the next morning.
  • For day visitors, you can utilize the hot spring facility from 10:30 am to 9 pm.
    • The last admission is at 8 pm.
    • The hot spring pools are closed until 3 pm for cleaning on Wednesdays.
  • The cost for day visitors is:
    • 520 yen for adults
    • 260 yen for children

Tips:
☛ Check with the ryokan if they still rent bicycles to the ryokan guests.
☛ Let the hotel know what you can’t eat when you book your stay. They will try their best to replace the non-vegetarian dishes. Just note if they couldn’t find an alternative, the dish will be removed from the menu.

How to Get to Harunako Yusuge Onsen

  • If you plan to come from Ikaho Onsen, get off at Harunako Onsen Yusuge (榛名湖温泉ゆうすげ).
  • If you plan to come from JR Takasaki Station, get off at Harunako (榛名湖). The ryokan is then a 30-minute walk.

Tip: Harunako Yusuge Onsen provides free pick-up and drop-off services from the bus stop, Harunako. Let them know in advance if you want to utilize the service.

Lake Haruna Auto-Camping Site (榛名湖オートキャンプ場)

If you love camping, book a site with Lake Haruna Auto-Camping Site. Not only can you rent out everything you need to enjoy camping, but the well-maintained camping site is also family-friendly. There is a kid’s corner in the Center House and a few playgrounds around the campsite to keep the younger ones busy. Furthermore, the camping ground’s gate is closed at night, keeping you safe.

Lake Haruna Auto-Camping Site also has a few bungalows for those who prefer a more comfortable stay or if they wish to sleep indoors.

While in Japanese, you can refer to Lake Haruna Auto-Camping Site’s website HERE and translate it to English using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.

Important:
☛ The camping site is close to Harunako Musical Road, so the music can be heard whenever a car passes, even at night.
☛ There tend to be many horseflies at the camping site. Insect repellent is a must.

Tip: There are microwaves at the camping site’s Center House. Washing machines and dryers can also be utilized for free! You can also get hot water from the hot water airpots. The hot water is kept at different temperatures in each airpot, one for making hot drinks and the other for milk for infants.

Harunako Musical Road (榛名湖メロディライン)

If you plan to drive to Lake Haruna from Ikaho Onsen, ensure you drive through the Harunako Musical Road. This 280-meter-long motorway section of Prefectural Road 33 has the melody of Sweetly Sings the Donkey flows if you drive at 50km/h. What a great way to get the drivers to drive at or under the speed limit!

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How is this done? When a car passes over a small groove dug in the road, the sound of the tires reverberates, producing a sound.

Haruna Shrine (榛名神社)

On the southwest of Lake Haruna, the Haruna Shrine has been looking after the region since the late 6th century. The 30-minute walk on the approach from the torii gate to the main worship hall is so mysterious that it is believed that some sort of sacred power can be gained just by taking the short journey! This is especially true as you walk past the Seven Lucky Gods (七福神).

Because of its long history, most of the architecture in Haruna Shrine’s precinct is of National Important Cultural Properties. Even the lantern at the side of the approach has its own story!

For more information, refer to our Haruna Shrine article.

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Discover Other Attractions in Ikaho Onsen

Ikaho Stone Stairway Ikaho Onsen Shibusawa Gunma Japan
Click the photo for more information about Ikaho Onsen’s attractions!

Not too far from Lake Haruna, Ikaho Onsen is one of the well-known hot spring towns in Gunma Prefecture. Not only does it have mineral-rich hot springs and is filled with delicious cafes and shops, but the onsen town also offers amazing scenery!

So refer to our Best Guide to the Must-Visit Spots in Ikaho Onsen to plan your visit!

Discover Mizusawa Temple’s Charms

In addition to Ikaho Onsen, how about visiting the Mizusawa area for their delicious udon and Mizusawa Temple? The Mizusawa udon is rated one of the Top Three Udons in Japan, and the temple, which has a 1,300-year history, is filled with amazingly built architecture and is a great cherry blossom and autumn foliage spot!

Refer to our Mizusawa Temple article for more information!

Rokakudo-Mizusawa-Temple-Shibusawa-Gunma-Japan
Click the photo for more information about Mizusawa Temple!

Exploring Other Amazing Destinations Close to Ikaho Onsen

Yubatake-Kusatsu-Onsen-Gunma-Japan
Click the photo for more great destinations near Kawarayu Onsen!

Lake Haruna is surely a hidden gem for everyone to enjoy Japan’s rural area. But you might be interested in visiting a couple more amazing sightseeing destinations nearby. For example, Kusatsu Onsen in the photo is a place in Gunma Prefecture that should not be skipped!

So refer to our Recommended Destinations Around Kusatsu Onsen for information about what Gunma Prefecture can offer!