We are continuing our popular interviews series and this month we are featuring Numata city (city Page) located in Gunma prefecture which is about 3h from Tokyo and known for its beautiful nature and stunning Tengu Festival.
So I contacted the Numata Tourism Department and talked to Kimura-san who shared some really great information with me and I am delighted to share what she told me with you.
Below is my interview, which I hope will inspire you to visit Numata, when you are in Japan!
Giant Tengu mask carried at the Numata Festival.
Numata is a great city with many things to do. For example, it is surrounded by mountains and rich in nature, so you can go fruit picking any time of the year. Visitors also love to see the Fukiware no Taki (Fukiware Falls, 吹割の滝).
There are also plenty of hot springs. One of them is Oigami-Onsen (老神温泉), a unique hot spring resort, there are many legends of gods and goddesses about it. Furthermore there is Shirasawa Kogen-onsen Bohkyoh no Yu (白沢高原温泉 望郷の湯) as well as a day use hot springs nearby such as Nangoh-Onsen Shakunage no Yu (南郷温泉 しゃくなげの湯), which are really beautiful.
Then visitors can experience Japanese culture and history at the area of the “Taisho-Roman”. It is reminiscent of the Taisho Era. Plus there is Numata Park, where Numata Castle (Numata Joh, 沼田城) was once located, which is a popular tourist spot.
Another thing I hope visitors don’t miss is the “Ohtengumen” (mask of a giant tengu, 大天狗面). You will be amazed at its power at first sight. It is enshrined in Kasyozan Miroku Ji temple (迦葉山 弥勒寺). The seasonal tradition is the Numata Festival (沼田まつり). This festival is held every year from August 3 to 5, and is a grand event. The Numata Fireworks Festival (沼田花火大会) is held in fall every year beautifully decorating the autumn sky.
And of course there are a variety of other attractions and local foods we hope visitors will try.
The Majestic Fukiware no Taki (Fukiware Falls).
Numata can be enjoyed throughout the year and has many interesting things depending on each season.
In spring, cherry blossoms are the main attraction. For example Numata Park (沼田公園) is a famous cherry blossom viewing spot with approximately 210 Someiyoshino cherry trees and 400-year-old Goten-zakura trees.
There are also other famous single cherry trees in the city, such as “Hocchi no Higannzakura” (発知のヒガンザクラ) and “Shimokawada no Shidare-zakura” (下川田のシダレザクラ), which contrast with the snow-covered mountains.
In summer, we recommend visiting the Tanbara Lavender Park (たんばらラベンダーパーク). It is one of the largest lavender fields in the North of Tokyo and is open to the public every year from early July. The 1,300-meter-high plateau is cool even in mid-summer. There are unusual and cute sweets such as lavender soft serve ice cream and konnyaku bubble soda with lavender flavour. It is a great spot especially for families with children. Also if you are a dog lover or owner, there is a space for dogs to run freely, so you and your pet can enjoy it together.
In the fall, visitors can enjoy the fall foliage throughout the city.
Fukiware no taki (Fukiware Falls, 吹割の滝), Tamahara Kogen (Tamahara Plateau, 玉原高原), Oigami Keikoku (Oigami Valley, 老神渓谷), and Sonohara-Ko (Sonohara Lake, 薗原湖) are all colored with autumn leaves.
Just looking out over the surrounding mountains from the city centre is a beautiful experience.
Tanbara Ski Park (たんばらスキーパーク) is also recommended in winter. Boasting smooth powder snow, it is a great place for snowboarders and skiers alike. The park is open from late November to early May.
Lavender Park / Fruit Picking / Tanbara Ski Park
Wow, that is a good question!
The first one is the Fukiware no taki (Fukiware Falls, 吹割の滝). It is also known as the Niagara Falls of the Orient and is one of the best places to visit. In spring, the waterfalls are a sight to behold as they swallow up melting snow and roar down in a spectacular display. Then in summer, the contrast with the fresh greenery is like a painting and in autumn, visitors can enjoy the combination of the waterfall and the beautiful autumn leaves spreading all over the area. Ogami Onsen (Ogami Hot springs, 老神温泉) is nearby so you can visit the hot springs as well.
Secondly, I would say Fruit Picking!!
Whatever the season, visitors can enjoy picking sweet and lush fruits such as strawberries from winter to spring, cherries in early summer, and grapes and apples in autumn.
The secret to the surprisingly sweet fruit lies in the large temperature difference between day and night. The freshly picked, delicious taste is something to be savored onsite.
Finally, the third attractions is the Great Tengu Mask of Mt. Kashozan (迦葉山の大天狗面). Kashozan Mirokuji Temple (迦葉山 弥勒寺) is a sacred temple with a long history, enshrines the largest tengu Mask in Japan.
During the Numata Festival (沼田まつり) held in August, the “tengu mikoshi,” a portable shrine carried only by women, is a popular highlight of the festival.
Once every 10 years, the shrine is re-opened to the public, and the sacred body of the god can be seen. Next time, this will be in 2025.
Fukiwara Waterall / Fruit Picking / Giant Tengu Mask
Numata City (city page) has many delicious foods, but one food that has long been a favorite is “Miso manju (味噌まんじゅう)”. Thin buns are placed on bamboo sticks, dipped in a thick miso sauce sweetened with sugar and syrup, and roasted over a fire. In the southern part of Gunma Prefecture, it is also called yaki manju (grilled manju), and in the city, miso manju with sweet bean paste is also popular.
Then there is “Edamame menchikatsu (枝豆の入ったメンチカツ)”. It was the idea of a local high school student and became a specialty of Numata and is very popular these days. It is sold at restaurants and meat shops in the city.
Then I would also recommend Tonkatsu (pork cutlets). If you head towards Nikko on the National Route 120, you will find many tonkatsu restaurants, all of which are very inventive, so you should try one when you come to Numata.
Finally, there is soba (buckwheat noodles) and tempura, both of which are typical Japanese delicacies. There are many home-made soba shops in Numata, where you can enjoy delicious, firm, tasty soba. I also recommend eating tempura with locally grown wild vegetables and wild plants with it.
Local Soba Noodles
My recommended souvenirs are honey, sake and traditional wooden crafts.
Honey has a mild, elegant taste, with less additives and is safe to eat. There are different types of honey, from the popular akashiya honey to unusual types such as apple honey, each with a different taste, so it is interesting to compare and find the one you like best!
Then Numata’s sake is soft and smooth to the taste. Numata City has a lot of soft water, which is ideal for sake brewing. I hope you get a chance to taste the sake from our area or take a tour of a brewery and enjoy the mysterious world of sake, sake brewing and history.
Buying some if the traditional wooden crafts of Numata City are also highly recommended. The craftsmanship developed in Numata, a traditional woodworking town, produces items that have a beautiful grain and that are lightweight and decorative. Great to bring home as a souvenir.
Local Japanese Sake from Numata
Yes! Two events are recommended: one is the Numata Festival (沼田まつり).
It is held for three days every year from 3 to 5 August. It has long been known as ‘Ojon (おぎょん)’ and a lot of people come to see it. Various events are held, including the parade of Mikoshi (portable shrines) from the Suga shrine and Haruna shrine, the parade of elegant and beautiful floats called ‘Mando’, town mikoshi and children’s mikoshi from all parts of the city, and the Nagashi Odori dance called ‘Sen-nin Odori’ (dance of a thousand people). The Tengu Mikoshi, in which a large tengu mask is made into a mikoshi and carried by women only, is particularly powerful.
Another is the Numata Fireworks Festival (沼田花火大会).
The fireworks display is like a painting spread out in front of you, with a fantastic interplay of light and sound. The sight of multiple fireworks going off at the same time, coloring the night sky in spectacular colors, is truly breathtaking. You can’t describe it in pictures, so please come and experience the show for yourself.
Numata Festival and Fireworks Festival.
It is always amazing to talk to someone local to find out more about a place and. I learned so much about Numata from Kimura-san. Her local perspective is so incredibly helpful to get a better understanding of what Numata has to offer and I am looking forward to visit the upcoming festivals!
I really hope if you are reading this, you too, decide to go and visit Numata, as I think you will have an amazing time in this wonderful town so close to Tokyo!
If you are coming from Tokyo, taking the train or driving is going to be the easiest.
From Tokyo or Ueno station, take the Joetsu Shinkansen to JR Jomokogen station (1h 10min) and take the bus to JR Numata station. (Total journey time approx. 1h 40 min). Check the Japan Transit Planner for train times.
2h 40minutes drive from Tokyo. Take the Kanestu Jidoshado (expressway) and get off at Numata IC
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.