Profile photo rowing a boat on Lake Haruna in GUnma

Angus Miyaji

Things to do in Maebashi - Nearby Tokyo Interview

Talking about 'things to do' in Maebashi city

We are back this month with our popular interviews series, featuring towns and cities near Tokyo and this month we are talking about Maebashi City (前橋市) in Gunma prefecture! Located only about 1h from Tokyo it is a great getaway for anyone who is looking to escape the busy city life and get a taste of what local Japan has to offer. 

As always, I have been in touch with the people who know best and this month I chatted with Masakazu Hashiura from the Maebashi Tourism Department and she shared some great information about what to see and do in Maebashi City.

Curious to find out more? Here is my interview below, I am sure after reading it you will want to put Maebashi City on your list of places to visit.

Which is the best season to come to Maebashi City?

Maebashi city staff interview with Mr. Hashiura

I’d particularly recommend summer for experiencing the best hiking and nature activities, and winter for enjoying unique snow-related adventures.

During summer, one of the top places to visit is Mt. Akagi (赤城山). While Maebashi is known as one of Japan’s hottest places, the temperature at the summit of Mt. Akagi can drop to lower than 10º Celsius. This makes it a refreshing and comfortable destination to escape the summer heat.

In the winter, Lake Onuma (大沼), situated at the top of Mt. Akagi, freezes over. When the lake is covered with ice, you can witness a breathtaking natural phenomenon known as Ice Bubbles, which form when air bubbles become trapped in the ice on the lake’s surface.

Visitors can also try their hand at Japanese smelt fishing or wakasagi fishing (わかさぎ釣り) , which involves drilling holes in the ice to catch small fish. Maebashi City is the closest spot to Tokyo for wakasagi fishing.

During the spring, you can delight in Maebashi City’s famous Senbon Zakura cherry blossoms on the slopes of Mout Akagi (赤城南面千本桜). In autumn you can also enjoy beautiful foliage. So, regardless of when you visit, Maebashi promises new discoveries throughout the year.

Wakasagi fishing/ Senbonzakura/ Onuma in fall

What are the top 3 attractions you cannot miss in Maebashi City?

I’d love to tell you more than three, but here are the top 3 great places to explore in Maebashi:

First up is the breathtaking Mt. Akagi (赤城山)! This mountain treats you to stunning views in every season, and each season brings its own set of activities to enjoy.

Next on the list is the charming area around Chiyoda machi (千代田町) and Ote machi (大手町) in Maebashi. Here, you’ll discover an artistic townscape filled with buildings designed by renowned architects and artists.

The third is Michi no eki Maebashi Akagi (道の駅まえばし赤城). This place is your go-to spot for delicious food, local agricultural products, and a hub for tourism. You can savor fresh fish, explore a banana farm, and even soak in a relaxing hot spring bath. Plus, they offer e-bikes for rent, which come in handy for exploring the natural beauty of the area. These electrically assisted bicycles cater to various terrains and distances, ensuring a smooth ride through nature.

Maebashi city staff interview with Mr. Hashiura

Kakumanbuchi/ Maebashi Galleria/ rental e-bike

What local food do you Recommended - is there any special dish or drink?

Maebashi city staff interview with Mr. Hashiura

Yes, there is!
Maebashi is one of the most famous pork-producing areas in Japan, so dishes using pork are delicious.

We especially recommend the Sauce Katsudon (ソースカツ丼), a bowl of rice topped with pork cutlet and sauce! The pork cutlet on rice is covered with each restaurant’s signature sauce, so I highly recommend tasting it at various restaurants. Gunma Prefecture is also famous for its wheat, which is used to make soba noodles.

The Maebashi way of combining soba and sauce Katsudon is to have a set of soba and sauce Katsudon at soba restaurants.
We hope you will try this set and feel Maebashi!

Sauce Katsudon a speciality in Maebashi city

Sauce Katsudon (ソースカツ丼)

What do you recommend to buy us a souvenir?

If you’re on the lookout for a unique souvenir, we recommend picking up a Kokeshi doll (こけし). These wooden dolls are traditionally crafted by turning them on a wheel and are well-known as souvenirs from Japanese hot spring resorts.

In general, Kokeshi dolls have a simple appearance, featuring a round head and cylindrical body, and they are commonly referred to as “Traditional Kokeshi”.

However, in Maebashi, you’ll find a special type of Kokeshi known as “Sosaku Kokeshi” (創作こけし). What sets these apart is their departure from the traditional Kokeshi image. Craftsmen in Maebashi, during the Meiji period (1868-1912), established the technique of turning on a wheel (Rokuro) and later applied this skill to Kokeshi doll making. This gave rise to Gunma’s unique Kokeshi dolls, which were created with a high degree of creative freedom in shape, color, and expression. Today, Kokeshi dolls are designated as Gunma Prefecture’s Hometown Crafts.

“Sosaku Kokeshi” is known for its diverse shapes and unconventional designs. Many of them complement Japanese landscapes and traditional rooms, while others can blend seamlessly with Western-style decor and other furnishings. This versatility makes them a captivating craft that can enhance any setting.

You can find Sosaku Kokeshi at souvenir shops in Maebashi Station, making it convenient to bring home a piece of this artistic tradition.

Maebashi city staff interview with Mr. Hashiura
Maebashi 's Sosaku Kokeshi dolls

“Sosaku Kokeshi” wooden dolls souvenirs from Maebashi City

Does Maebashi have any special festivals?

Maebashi city staff interview with Mr. Hashiura

Yes,  Maebashi has three major festivals.

The biggest festival is the Tanabata Matsuri (七夕まつり) held in July. It is said to be the largest in the Kanto region. Tanabata decorations made by local citizens are hung from the ceilings of the shopping arcade, creating a beautiful and impressive sight.

Maebashi Matsuri (前橋まつり) in October is a festival in which all citizens participate. More than 3,000 Maebashi citizens, from children to adults, dance in the well-known Danbei Odori dance (だんべい踊り), and nearly 6,000 citizens walk around the center of the city carrying a large mikoshi (portable shrine). The Maebashi Festival is a festival that all citizens can enjoy.

In January, there is Hatsuichi (初市), a festival with a 400-year history. A large pillar of fire is burned to offer Daruma dolls that have been prayed for good health throughout the year, and it is a very solemn event.

Tanabata Festival/ Maebashi Festival / Hatsuichi Festival

Do you have famous legends and myths in Maebashi?

Maebashi has been inhabited since B.C. and therefore has many legends and folklore.

The most famous of these is the legend of the princesses of Mt.Akagi (赤城山). In ancient times, there were three princesses of the nobility on Mt. Akagi, and it is said that one of them, Princess Akagi, escaped from a disaster with the help of the Ryujin (dragon god) and later became a god. From this legend, Akagi Shrine (赤城神社), located on Akagi Onuma, is believed to be a sacred place where women’s wishes and desires are fulfilled.

Later, several other shrines were built, including Mt. Ubasute (姥捨山) and Akagi Shrine (赤城神社), and the story of the princesses remains as a local legend. The princesses were honored by posterity, and their names remain in the names of places and shrines today.

Another legendary person is Kamiizumi Isenokami Yoshinobu (上泉伊勢守信綱), who actually existed in the 16th century and was called the Sword Saint. He is one of the great figures loved by the Japanese who love warlords, and there is a bronze statue of him in the city, as well as a festival to honor his achievements.

Maebashi city staff interview with Mr. Hashiura
Maebashi Princess Charm

Princess Charm

Is there anything special for those traveling with kids?

Maebashi city staff interview with Mr. Hashiura

Yes, there is a unique amusement park for children called “Lunapark” (るなぱあく).

It has the oldest existing wooden horse (made in 1954), which is designated as a national tangible cultural property. It is still in operation and visitors can ride it for only 10 yen. There are also many other nostalgic attractions such as a blister train and a merry-go-round that small children can enjoy.

Maebashi residents have fond memories of this amusement park for three generations of parents and children.

Maebashi City Luna Park

Luna Park Amusement Park in Maebashi

Do you have a hidden gem?

Maebashi is a place rich in history and natural beauty, and there are some hidden treasures you can explore and enjoy.

First on the list is Miyosawa Akagi Shrine (三夜沢赤城神社). This historic site is surrounded by pine trees that burst into bloom with azaleas in the spring. You can easily reach this beautiful location using an e-bike. Make sure not to overlook the ancient Tawara Sugi (俵杉) cedar tree, which has been standing tall for over a thousand years.

Next, venture to Fudo Otaki Falls (不動大滝), the largest and most powerful waterfall on Akagi Mountain. You’ll encounter fascinating stories about beloved Japanese warlords like Kenshin Uesugi (上杉謙信) and Chuji Kunisada (国定忠治). The scenery here is incredible, with a misty summer landscape and vibrant rainbows, as well as frozen icicles in the winter. The trail to the waterfall involves crossing rivers and navigating slopes and rocks, so it’s crucial to gather information and make necessary preparations. Be sure to wear sturdy hiking or trekking shoes.

Our last hidden gem is the Torii Toge (鳥居峠), offering a breathtaking view of Mt. Akagi, standing at 1,390 meters above sea level. If you’re fortunate, you might witness a spectacular sea of clouds from summer to autumn. Additionally, you can explore Lake Onuma (大沼), the Kakumanbuchi abyss (覚満淵) on Mt. Akagi, and even catch glimpses of the remnants of an old cable car that used to connect the ground to the summit area.

Maebashi city staff interview with Mr. Hashiura

Miyosawa Akagi Shrine/ Fudo Otaki Falls/ Torii Toge Mt. Akagi

Final Thoughts

It was great to talk to Hashiura-san and learn more about Maebashi City and all it has to offer!

Once more, I learned so much and I must say, I was especially impressed by all the hidden gems and the beautiful natural landscapes in Mout Akagi available all through the year. I am really looking forward to visiting the town in the upcoming season!

I hope this interview gives you a few ideas of things to do if you are in Tokyo or planning to visit Japan. I am sure if you visit you will have a wonderful time in this city!

How to get to Maebashi

If you are coming from Tokyo, taking the train is the easiest, but driving is also recommended as it is easy to get around town with a car.

From Tokyo to JR Maebashi Station  (70 minutes by train)

Take the JR Joetsu Shinkansen/Hokuriku Shinkansen to JR Takasaki and change to JR Ryomo Line to JR Maebashi Sta.

Further useful information

Read these articles to plan your trip!

–  Maebashi City Travel Guide

Akagi Nanmen Senbonzakura Festival   

Maebashi City Travel Guide

Did you find this article useful?

I hope you enjoyed reading about this hidden gem just north of Tokyo, if you would like to know more about fun things to do and travel ideas, please continue to have a look at our must-see / must do things nearby Tokyo page.

To book unique activities in English, please see the Nearby Tokyo experience page.

Profile photo rowing a boat on Lake Haruna in GUnma
Contributor:  Angus Miyaji Founder of Nearby Tokyo and Japan World Link, Angus helps visitors discover off the beaten track destinations in the North Kanto regions (Tochigi, Gunma, Ibaraki & Saitama north of Tokyo). He regularly travels between Japan and the UK promoting tourism and Japanese sake.
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