Profile photo rowing a boat on Lake Haruna in GUnma

Angus Miyaji

Things to do in Takasaki - Nearby Tokyo Interview

Talking about 'things to do' in Takasaki city

We are back this month with our popular interviews series, featuring towns and cities near Tokyo, and this month we are talking about Takasaki City (高崎市) in Gunma prefecture! Located only 50 minutes from Tokyo, it is a fantastic getaway for anyone seeking to escape the bustling city life and experience the charm of local Japan.

As always, I have been in touch with the people who know best, and this month I had a conversation with Tsubasa Ohshima and Shota Takeuchi from the Takasaki Tourism Department. They shared some fantastic insights about what to see and do in Takasaki City.

Curious to find out more? Here is my interview below, and I am confident that after reading it, you will be eager to add Takasaki City to your list of places to visit.

Which is the best season to come to Takasaki City?

Takasaki City Tourism Staff Mr Oshima

Good question!

Takasaki is a popular destination for tourists all year round, but the best time to visit is in the summer or the winter.

Every summer, the city hosts two of the largest festivals in the Northern Kanto region at the same time, the Takasaki Festival & Takasaki Fireworks Festival (高崎まつり・大花火大会), and the Takasaki Float Festival (高崎山車まつり). They’re held during the summer every year, and many people from outside Gunma come to partake in the festivities. Visitors can spectate the parading of the portable shrine, the traditional procession of floats, and a spectacular fireworks display. One of the cool and unique things about these festivals is that they are held together at the same time; there are very few other places in Japan that mimic this. And because they are held together at the same time, the combined fervor of both festivals create a very rambunctious atmosphere that gives you the full Japanese festival experience!

In the winter, Japan’s first-of-the-year Daruma market (だるま市) is held for two days from January 1st to January 2nd.

A daruma is considered a lucky ornament in Japanese culture. It works like this: Draw one eye on the daruma, then make a wish, and once that wish is fulfilled, draw the other eye!

It’s a great way to start off the year if you want a dream or a wish to come true!

Takasaki Float Festival/ Takasaki Fireworks Festival/ Daruma doll market

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

The first is Jigen-in (慈眼院)!

The 41.8 meter high Byakue Daikannon (白衣大観音) is the symbol of Jigen-in, and you can enjoy a nice view of the city of Takasaki while also praying for blessings.

The combination of cherry blossoms and Byakue Daikannon is even more beautiful, making this a must-see spot during the spring!

The Kannonyama Sando (観音山参道) shopping street on the way from the parking lot to the Jigen-in Temple is also a great place to enjoy local flavors, as well as finding some unique souvenirs!

The second is Lake Haruna (榛名湖).

Lake Haruna is a summer resort with various things to do and see. On one hand, during the summer, you have the Lake Haruna Fireworks Festival (榛名湖花火大会) that is held every August.

On the other hand, during the winter, you have the Lake Haruna Illumination! Held every December, it’s a mesmerizing display of color on the surface of the lake.

The weather can get pretty chilly, so it’s best for you and your loved ones to dress for the cold!

The third is the Kouzuke sanpi (上野三碑), or also called the Stelae of Kouzuke.

The three monuments of Kouzuke are the Yamanouehi 山上碑, AD681), Tagohi (多胡碑, AD 711), and Kanaizawahi  (金井沢碑, AD 726), ancient stone monuments dating from the 7th and 8th centuries.

They are registered as a UNESCO “Memory of the World” (the collective name for a project launched by UNESCO in 1992 with the aim of facilitating preservation of the world’s documentary heritage, catalyzing universal access to documentary heritage, and enhancing public awareness worldwide of the significance of documentary heritage).

Taking a leisurely stroll through these monuments makes for a rather nice activity!

Takasaki city tourism staff Mr Takeuchi

Great Goddess of Mercy, Lake Haruna, and Yamanoue Stela

Recommended food - is there any special dish or drink?

Takasaki City Tourism Staff Mr Oshima

When I think about Takasaki food, the first dish that comes to mind is pasta.

Takasaki is actually a large producer of wheat, and because of that, there are a lot of pasta restaurants scattered throughout the city. Not only does it taste great, but they give you a lot of it too; a great way to satisfy your pasta desires!

In addition, an annual tournament called “King of Pasta” is held in November. All the pasta restaurants in the city compete against each other for the top prize and bragging rights. If you get the chance, I highly recommend that you check it out!

Takasaki food

Takasaki pasta

What do you recommend to buy as a souvenir?

This is a tough question! There’s so many to choose from that it’s almost impossible to answer.

To start off, Takasaki Daruma (高崎だるま) are renown across the entire nation. Recently, there has been a trend of using colors besides the traditional red on the daruma. Plus, since they come in all shapes and sizes, you can easily purchase some to take back home with you.

Besides that, if you like snacks, you can try the famous Harada Rusk. 

If you like noodles, I’d suggest that you buy a pack of some Takasaki Udon! 

And if you like plums, Takasaki is a major producer of them: You’ll find no shortage of plum products including liqueur and jam.

Lastly, near Takasaki Station’s west exit, you’ll find a shop called “Takasaki Jiman” (高崎じまん) located in the Takasaki OPA shopping center. At this shop, you can find all sorts of local goods and Takasaki products. If you have time, it might be a good idea to drop by this place if you’re looking for gifts and souvenirs!

Takasaki city tourism staff Mr Takeuchi

Plums, colorful daruma, and a Takasaki local goods store

Does Takasaki have any special festivals?

Takasaki City Tourism Staff Mr Oshima

The biggest festivals held in Takasaki are the Takasaki Festival and the Float Festival, as I talked about earlier.

There is also the Minowa Castle Festival (箕輪城まつり), held at the Minowa Castle Ruins (箕輪城跡), which is one of Japan’s 100 famous castle ruins. At this event, you can watch a historical reenactment of a battle during medieval Japan. It’s a very fun performance to watch, especially for those who love history.

Minowa Castle Ruins Festival

The Minowa Castle Festival

Are there any famous legends and myths in Takasaki?

There’s a famous legend called “The Legend of Princess Fujitsuru (藤鶴)”.

It takes place during a battle at Minowa Castle. Princess Fujitsuru, wife of Minowa Castle Lord Narimasa Nagano (長野業政), was fleeing with her retainers from enemy soldiers when she heard a voice from behind that she thought was her pursuer, and she was determined that she could not escape and committed suicide.

However, the voice she thought was her pursuer turned out to be one of her retainers who arrived late. The retainers buried the princess there, and her descendants continue to hold a ceremony there on the anniversary of her death.

Takasaki city tourism staff Mr Takeuchi
Minowa Castle Ruins

Minowa Castle Ruins

Is there anything special for those traveling with kids?

Takasaki city tourism staff Mr Takeuchi

Takasaki City is rich in nature and can be enjoyed by the whole family!

The Warabidaira Forest Park Campsite (わらび平森林公園キャンプ場) in the Kurabuchi (倉渕) area is especially nice.

Both serious campers and families can casually enjoy the outdoors there. It’s a great opportunity for people to enjoy barbecues and trout fishing in a natural paradise.

Kerner Park (ケルナー広場) in Kannon Yama Park (観音山公園) is also a great place for children to play on unique playgrounds while getting in touch with nature: a great way to spur their own curiosity by playing to their heart’s content!

Warabidaira Forest Park campsite, Kannonyama Sandou, and Takasaki city view

Do you have a hidden gem?

I’ll share with you a couple of mine.

Tokumeien Garden (徳明園) is a must-visit spot during the fall foliage season!

They have a fantastic light display in the garden, giving it a very mesmerizing atmosphere.

Also, you have the Doukutsu Cave Kannon (洞窟観音), which is located on the ground. It has 39 statues of the Kannon in a 450-meter cave. Moreover, the temperature is kept at 17°C year-round without air conditioning, so a visit on a hot summer day is recommended.

Takasaki City Tourism Staff Mr Oshima

Tokumeien Garden and Cave Kannon 

Final Thoughts

It was great to talk to Oshima-san and Takeuchi-san and learn more about Takasaki 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 available all through the year. I am looking forward to visiting the town again!

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 Takasaki

50min by JR Joetsu Shinkansen or JR Hokuriku Shinkansen

Further useful information

Read these articles to plan your trip!

Takasaki 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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