Nestled near the extinct volcano Mount Haruna in Gunma Prefecture, the onsen town of Ikaho is known for having stone steps, two types of hot spring waters, and a long history dating all the way back to around 759 CE.
As one of the main hot spring resort towns of Gunma and with its proximity to Tokyo, Ikaho is a great quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of the Japanese capital. Here, you’re taken back in time with its charming shops, restaurants, shrines, and museums.
Its iconic stone steps, or ishidan, is the symbol of the hot spring town. Some of the stone steps date back from the town’s creation 400 years ago. Currently, the 365 stone steps have been remodeled with granite stones to give the town its nostalgic, traditional feel.
Ikaho’s location near an extinct volcano has made it known for its onsen waters: the Kogane no Yu (Golden Water), enriched with high iron so when it mixes the air, it oxidizes to give it its brownish-red color; and the Shirogane no Yu (White Silver Water), a colorless water sourced from a nearby spring. Ikaho Onsen has become a popular place for those seeking hot springs that don’t irritate the skin. It has been particularly popular with women because the hot springs promote soft skin and blood circulation.
The Best Things To Do In Ikaho Onsen
1. Stone Steps
Spanning 365 steps, the stone steps are the symbol of the Ikaho Onsen town. Engraved in the stone steps are some of the poems of the poet Yosano Akiko, as well as Chinese Zodiac signs plates. Make sure to find these while you climb the steps!
While climbing the steps, go ahead and try the famous Hot Spring Manju, a brown bun with a delicious filling that is said to have originated in Ikaho!
- Address: Near 94-2 Ikaho, Ikaho-cho, Shibukawa City
- Hours: Open daily
2. Ikaho Shrine
Dating all the way back in 825, Ikaho Shrine has hot springs and medicine deities enshrined here. To reach the shrine, you must climb the stone steps leading to it. It’s said that climbing all 365 steps to the shrine will bring you good luck!
Take a break at one of the many shops and cafes that line the way before continuing on your stone path!
- Address: 2 Ikaho, Ikaho-cho, Shibukawa City
- Hours: Open daily
3. Kajika Bridge
After enjoying the Ikaho Onsen stone steps, head over to the Kajika Bridge. This vermilion arched bridge is where you can enjoy the changing foliage. In summer, the refreshing green leaves of the maple trees create a beautiful contrast to the bridge’s bright red hue.
During autumn, the amber leaves complement the bridge to create a memorable autumn foliage scene. On autumn nights, the trees are illuminated so make sure to take a walk and enjoy the sight!
- Address: 586-2 Ikaho, Ikaho-cho, Shibukawa City
- Hours: Open daily
- Fee: Free
4. Ikaho Open Air Bath
Take a dip in Ikaho Onsen’s open-air bath and savor the crisp mountain air! The bath gets its water directly from the source, and Kogane no Yu (Golden Water) emerges.
This has become a popular onsen place for women, especially those seeking to improve fertility by creating better blood flow in the body.
- Address: 581 Yumoto, Ikaho, Ikaho-cho, Shibukawa City
- Hours: 9:00AM – 6:30PM (Closed on 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month)
- Fee: 450 yen (adults), 200 yen (children)
5. Ikaho Checkpoint
Built during the 8th year of the Kan’ei period, the Ikaho Checkpoint has been restored, and even has a small museum displaying artifacts from that time. This is located at the right side of the Ikaho Stone Steps and was an important checkpoint during the Edo period.
- Address: 34 Ikaho, Ikaho-cho, Shibukawa City
- Hours: 9:00AM – 5:00PM (Closed on 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month)
- Fee: Free
6. Ikaho Ropeway
Enjoy the mountain views and take a ride on the Ikaho Ropeway! This connects Ikaho and the Higashiyama summit peak. For four minutes, you can enjoy an aerial view of the surrounding mountains and the hot spring town.
When you get off at the station, you will find the Ikaho Skate Center and the Uenoyama Park Observatory Deck.
- Address: 560-1 Ikaho, Ikaho-cho, Shibukawa City
- Hours: 9:00AM – 5:00PM (last ascent at 4:45PM), operates every 15 minutes, no service at 12:15PM
- Fee: 830 yen (adults), 410 yen (elementary school students and younger); round trip
7. Nagamine Park
Nature lovers, rejoice! Offering spectacular views of the nearby Mount Akagi and the Ikaho Onsen Town, Nagamine Park is home to the yamatsutsuji azaleas that bloom from mid to late May. Take a hike around the park to enjoy its refreshing scenery or take your time to enjoy the aerial view of the surrounding areas.
- Address: 991-19 Yunakako, Ikaho-cho, Shibukawa City
- Hours: Daily
If you are looking for similar villages in Japan, check out our list of the best onsen towns in Japan!
8. Mizusawa Temple
Founded more than 1,300 years ago, the Mizusawa Temple boasts of a main temple, a hexagonal two-storey pagoda, a bell tower, and a Shaka hall enshrining the Shaka Triad. The pagoda enshrines Jizo statues that are sitting on a rotating pedestal. It is said that if you pray while turning the pedestal three times to the left, your wishes will come true!
Nearby is the Mizusawa Udon Street that’s lined with shops selling Mizusawa Udon. After praying at the temple, take a break at one of the shops and enjoy the refreshing cold udon served with a dipping sauce.
- Address: 214 Mizusawa, Ikaho-cho, Shibukawa City
- Hours: 8:00AM – 5:00PM
- Fee: Free
9. Ikaho Kirie Museum
The Ikaho Kirie Museum showcases paper cutout art from the Ikaho Kirie Artists Association. For a fun activity for kids and adults alike, the friendly staff will guide you on how to make one of the 50 available paper cutting samples. Plus, you get to take home your finished work as a lovely souvenir!
- Address: 530-108 Ikaho, Ikaho-cho, Shibukawa City
- Hours: 9:00AM – 5:00PM (closed on Tuesdays except if it falls on a national holiday)
- Fee: 500 yen (adults), 200 yen (children)
10. Ikaho Hoshina Art Museum
Ikaho Onsen isn’t just about the hot springs, it also has a lot of museums! The Hoshina Art Museum features art from various Japanese artists such as Takehisa Yumeji and Kaichi Kobayashi.
And because the museum is in a hot spring town, visitors can enjoy a foot bath after walking around the museum, and a cafe that boasts of scenic views of the surrounding mountains.
- Address: 211-1, Ikaho, Ikaho-cho, Shibukawa City
- Hours: 9:00AM – 4:30PM (closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays)
- Fee: 1,00 yen (adults), 600 yen (elementary school students), 300 yen (infants)
11. Hara Museum ARC
If you love contemporary art, visit the Hara Museum ARC! This is an annex to the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo that closed in 2020. Museum goers and art lovers will enjoy the art of foreign and local artists like Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Yayoi Kusama, Yoshitomo Nara, Tabaimo, Yasumasa Morimura, Tatsuo Miyajima, and more.
After enjoying the art, head to the museum’s cafe, Cafe d’Art for art-inspired cakes.
- Address: 2855-1 Kanai, Shibukawa City
- Hours: 9:30AM – 4:30PM (Closed on Thursdays, except holidays and in August)
- Fee: 1,100 yen (adults), 700 yen (students), 550 yen (seniors), 500 yen (children)
12. Green Bokujo
Bring the kids and kids at heart to Green Bokujo, a farm and agricultural theme park in Ikaho! Visit the petting zoo, ride horses, watch a live herding demonstration, and even make your own butter and ice cream here! If you love having barbecues, the park provides an area where you can have a barbecue party with your friends and family!
You can also drop by the Hara Museum ARC which is found within the park’s grounds.
- Address: 2844-1 Kanai, Shibukawa City
- Hours: 9:00AM – 4:00PM (March – November); 10:00AM – 4:00PM (December – February). Closed on weekdays from January-February except holidays
- Fee: 1,300 yen (adults), 650 yen (kids)
13. Ikaho Toy, Doll, and Car Museum
Toy lovers, retro seekers and even anime fans must consider a visit to the Ikaho Toy, Doll, and Car Museum! This museum showcases toys from the Showa era, and even has a reconstructed sweet store to give visitors a taste of the olden days. Anime fans, particularly those who enjoyed Initial D, will enjoy the Fujiwara Tofu Shop from the anime that’s recreated in the museum.
The museum also has toy displays from around the world that kids and kids at heart will appreciate!
- Address: 2145 Kaminoda, Yoshioka, Kitagunma District
- Hours: 8:30AM – 6:00PM daily (closes at 5:00PM November – Apri)
- Fee: 1,100 yen (adults), 440-880 yen (children)
Where to stay in Ikaho Onsen?
For you stay at Ikaho Onsen, we highly recommend you to go for a Ryokan! You will have access to on-site hot spring baths and you will enjoy an unforgettable Japanese traditional experience.
Located right by the Ikaho Onsen’s iconic stone steps is the Kishigon Ryokan. This long-standing ryokan houses the famous footbath, Kishigon Tatsu no Yu. After enjoying the stone steps and searching for the dragon Chinese Zodiac plate, relax in the open-air bath and admire the scenic views of the Gunma mountains.
You may also reserve a private bath! The Ukigumo boasts of a scenic garden view and rest area, the Hototogisu has a cypress bath where you can soak away your worries, and the Kintou Kotou is an open-air bath where you can soak alone in peace.
Why Guests Love It: Guests enjoyed how Kishigon Ryokan is right next to the Ikaho Stone Steps. The service was very good and they found that the staff was very accommodating, even in dietary requirements. Guests also found the Japanese and continental breakfast options to be delicious and generous in portion.
Book It Now: Kishigon Ryokan
For a taste of the traditional onsen stay, book a night or two at Mimatsukan. This ryokan is just a five-minute drive away from the Ikaho Green Bokujo, making this the ideal stay for families and big groups. Here, guests can relax and enjoy a multi-course Japanese dinner cooked from locally-sourced produce.
Mimatsukan also features the open-air bath, Ukigumo. Located at the top floor of the ryokan, guests can soak here while enjoying the scenic Gunma mountains. And if you bathe at night, you can relax while taking a glimpse at the stars in the sky!
Why Guests Love It: While guests were initially worried about sleeping on futons on the tatami, they found this to be very comfortable. Rooms are spacious and the staff provided exceptional service despite language barriers. Guests also gushed about the outdoor rooftop onsen.
Book It Now: Mimatsukan
The Ikaho Syusuien showcase a blend of modern and Taisho-era design elements to create a nostalgic yet current atmosphere. It has three baths with Shirogane no Yu water. It has been said that this colorless and transparent water is effective for those who are recovering from illness and fatigue.
One of the indoor baths is carefully decorated with a tile motif of the surrounding Gunma mountains, while the other has bright stained glass that reflects beautifully on the surface of the waters.
The natural open-air bath is surrounded by nature and even has the writer Sakutaro Hagiwara’s “Homecoming” etched on a stone tablet to invite the bathers to relax and soak up the waters and the surroundings.
Why Guests Love It: Guests raved about the accommodating staff members and the amazing mountain views from their rooms. The Japanese breakfast and other meals also won the hearts of the guests.
Book It Now: Ikaho Syusuien
If you are not sure about what to do in a Ryokan, make sure you check out our post about Ryokan Etiquette!
How To Get To Ikaho Onsen?
There are many ways to get to Ikaho Onsen from Tokyo. By train, take the Limited Express Kusatsu from Ueno Station to Shibukawa Station, then change to the local bus to Ikaho Onsen (2.5 hours).
You can also take the shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno Stations to Takasaki Station, then change to the Joetsu or Agatsuma lines (1.25 hours).
Finally, you can take a highway bus from the Shinjuku Bus Terminal to Ikaho Onsen (2.5 hours).
Udon, museums, and a farm amusement park – the Ikaho Onsen Town has so much to offer beyond just its famed hot springs! If you’re looking for a respite from the usual onsen visits, visit Ikaho Onsen. Its proximity to Tokyo makes it ideal for day trips, but its wide array of activities make it a must-visit for families and friends alike. Take a gander at this nostalgic hot spring town and experience the traditional Japanese onsen visit!