Profile photo rowing a boat on Lake Haruna in GUnma

Angus Miyaji

Things to do in Minakami - Nearby Tokyo Interview

Talking about 'things to do' in Minakami city

We are back this month with our popular interviews series, featuring a local town nearby Tokyo and this month we are talking about Minakami town 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 Yukie Fujino from the Minakami Tourism Department and she shared some great information about what to see and do in Minakami City.

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

Why should people visit Minakami Town?

In Minakami we are really proud of our local food and beverages, especially our craft beers! Furthermore it is a natures lover paradise, with great outdoors activities during all four seasons.

Plus, Minakami City is really easy to get to from Tokyo. It can make a really great day trip, or with many beautiful onsens (hot springs) it’s a wonderful weekend getaway.

Gunma Minakami Town Takaragawa outdoor onsen in autumn

Beautiful Onsen in Minakami

Which is the best season to come to Minakami?

Minakami Town is truly a wonderful place to enjoy all four seasons. Each season offers different amazing attractions.

For example, in SPRING, you can enjoy cherry blossoms and snow-capped mountains at the same time, and in SUMMER, there are many water activities, such as world-class rafting on the Tone River, which is one of the most famous rivers in Japan.

In the FALL, the forests are beautifully colored with autumn leaves, and in the WINTER, there is plenty of snow on the mountains, offering a wealth of winter activities such as skiing and snowboarding. 

The four distinct seasons and the various landscapes of the area make it a unique place to visit and since each season has different activities, you will never get bored no matter how many times you come to Minakami.

Cherry Blossoms / River Rafting / Snow Boarding

Which are the top 3 attractions you cannot miss in Minakami?

There are many attractive tourist spots in Minakami Town, but I would recommend these three places in particular:

Takaragawa Onsen

First is Takaragawa Onsen (宝川温泉). It is said to be the largest open-air hot spring in Japan, so it’s a place visitors should definitely visit when in the area. It’s so popular that people come to experience this hot spring from all over the world. You will be able to relax while enjoying the beautiful nature surrounding the hot spring.

Tanigawa-dake Ropeway

The beautiful autumn foliage in Minakami Town is also something you should not miss. The view of the autumn leaves from the Tanigawa-dake ropeway (谷川岳ロープウェイ) is especially spectacular. Although other seasons also offer stunning views, if you can, try to take advantage of the autumn foliage season. The view overlooking the sea of multicolored autumn leaves is truly amazing!

Outdoor Activities

The third thing is not just one place, but things to enjoy. Minakami is a treasure trove of outdoor activities. Rafting, canyoning, canoeing, SUP, and other water-based activities are extremely popular. These activities are a great way to spend a hot Japanese summer day cooling down in the river. It is also perfect for those who want to enjoy nature to the fullest. And, of course, in the colder winter seasons, Minakami is a great place to enjoy skiing and snowboarding!

When you visit, be sure to keep these spots and activities in mind,  and you will surely be able to create fun memories!

Takaragawa Onsen/ Hot Spring / Tanigawa-dake ropeway

Do you have any local food or dish you would recommend visitors should try?

In Minakami Town, you will find many delicious local foods and drinks, but I especially recommend our tasty water.

You might be surprised that we recommend ‘water’, but the quality of water in Minakami  one of the best in Japan. Our water is excellent to drink and enhances the food and beverages made with local ingredients. Just pour yourself a glass even from the tap and enjoy.

Local Soba Noodles made with Minakami’s delicious water.

When in Minakami, what do you recommend visitors buy as a souvenir?

Gunma Minakami Town local soba noodles

Tsukiyo Craft Beer, Onsen Manju & Nama Dorayaki

First is Tsukiyono Craft Beer (月夜野クラフトビール), which won silver and bronze awards at the Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA) 2021, one of the world’s top five beer competitions. This is a gem for beer lovers and is one of Japan’s most highly regarded craft beers. There is also an assortment of rare local beers made from strawberries, which is so tasty. These local beers are sure to offer a fresh taste unique to Minakami Town.

Secondly, onsen manju (温泉饅頭) and nama dorayaki (生どら焼き). These are sweets unique to onsen resorts and make great souvenirs. You can find many variations of onsen manju, which you can find at the local souvenir shops in Minakami Town. They are a great way for visitors to enjoy different flavors from each region. Then there is the Nama-dorayaki, which is also a popular souvenir. It consists of a mildly sweet dough and a special red bean paste. Again, each store offers a different taste, so be sure to visit several stores.

These souvenirs are also perfect to take home as gifts for loved ones after enjoying the charms of Minakami Town. We hope you will enjoy the unique local flavors when you visit!

Craft Beer/ Octone Brewing / Nama-dorayaki

Does Minakami have any special festivals?

Yes, Minakami Town has a festival with special significance called Takumi-no-Sato Houraku Festival (たくみの里 豊楽祭り). It is held every year in mid-October in Takumi-no-Sato (たくみの里) and is an important event for the locals to pray for a good harvest.

Karasu-tengu (烏天狗), the guardian deity of fire prevention, is displayed in a showcase near the Takumi no Sato たくみの里 bus stop, so if you miss the festival, you can still see it anytime.

Please visit this festival and enjoy the community’s warm atmosphere and rich nature!

Gunma Minakami Town Houraku Festival

Karasu-tengu Masks being carried around town.

Is there anything special for those traveling with kids?

Yes, Minakami Town has cute and fun tourist attractions for families with children.

There is a wonderful spot at Sugawa-juku (須川宿), which used to be a post town on the old Mikuni Kaido (旧三国街道), the road connecting Edo and Sado Island (佐渡島). It is called Takumi no Sato (たくみの里).

“Takumi no Sato” is a rural landscape dotted with small workshops where visitors of all ages can enjoy handcraft experiences such as making Japanese Washi paper (和紙), painting Omen (Japanese masks), and Kusaki-zome (草木染) which is dyeing cloth with plants and trees.

Takumi no Sato is a wonderful place for parents and children to spend time together making crafts and fun memories.

Gunma Minakami town Takumi no Sato

Takumi no Sato in Minakami town

And Finally, are there any special discounts or passes available for visitors?

Yes, Minakami Town has a convenient ticket pass for foreign tourists. It is the “Minakami Area Bus Pass” (みなかみエリアバスパス). This pass is a ticket exclusively for foreign tourists and allows unlimited rides on buses throughout the town for three consecutive days.

You need to present your passport to purchase it, but it allows you to easily visit tourist spots and activities in Minakami Town and enjoy sightseeing conveniently at your own pace and at a reasonable price.

Make sure to take advantage of the “Minakami Area Bus Pass” and enjoy a wonderful sightseeing experience in Minakami Town!

Minakami Area Pass Bus

Minakami Area Pass Bus pass for foreigners.

Final Thoughts

It was great to talk to Fujino-san and learn more about Minakami Town and all it has to offer!

Once more, I learned so much and I must say, I was especially impressed by all the beautiful nature spots and outdoor activities available all through the year. I am really looking forward to visit the town in the upcoming fall!

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 small town!

How to get to Minakami

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.

By Train (Jomo Kogen station).)

1h by train. (Joetsu Shinkansen)

By Car

2.5 hours by car

Further useful information

Read these articles to plan your trip!

Minakami Town Travel Guide

Minakami Area Buss Pass

Minakami Town 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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