Explore the Beauty of Nature in Gunma, Iwate, and Yamagata! | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

Explore the Beauty of Nature in Gunma, Iwate, and Yamagata! 

By Alex Gray Jul 29, 2020

What do you know about the pristine beauty of nature in Gunma, Iwate and Yamagata? What is important to you when you plan a trip? Do you prefer the hustle and bustle of cities or do you like nature-filled destinations? If you enjoy vacationing in nature we have four great recommendations for you!

Stay in Gunma, Iwate, and Yamagata for a Taste of Nature’s True Beauty

If you like snowy scenes, head to the snowy mountains of Yamagata and view the beautiful snow-covered trees of Zao and stay in a wooden lodge. Or how about a Japanese inn near a beautiful ravine with limestone walls in Iwate? If you like relaxing in open-air hot springs, travel to Kusatsu in Gunma for an unforgettable onsen experience. Read on for more about these nature-filled destinations and recommended places to stay! 

Pension Swiss

Spend a moment of relaxation in the great nature of the four seasons at Pension Swiss, five minutes by car from Yamagata Zao Onsen Bus Terminal. It’s a place where you can feel the sunrise and sunset with your whole body. Feel the warmth of the trees, the natural scenery of each season, and negative ions. You can be comfortable in the at-home setting of a holiday home while experiencing nature’s wonders. 

The lodge has a rustic, charming atmosphere with cozy furnishings. It feels just like a Swiss log cabin. Wonder at the beautiful views of woods and mountains from within the lodge. You will feel right at home!

Make the most of the brilliant Mother Nature in Yamagata Zao where you can see a number of outdoor hot water sights, and relax in a very comfortable large open-air bath. Zao Onsen opened in 1900 and is one of the oldest hot springs in Japan. It is a highly acidic sulfur spring. Sulfur spring activates mucopolysaccharide protein in the body, which increases the amount of water in the body and helps to keep the skin and skin healthy. It is said to rejuvenate the blood vessels. In addition to its blood circulation-boosting effects, the sulfur spring also strengthens the skin. The rejuvenation of your skin and blood vessels and the skin-beautifying effects are what make this onsen popular! 

Do you like skiing? Take to the slopes at Zao Onsen Ski Resort. Skiing in this area is very special as, during the winter sports season, you can see “snow monsters” and enjoy the great nature of Yamagata Zao to the fullest. It is one of the few places in Japan where you can see juhyo or “ice trees”. They are also known as “snow monsters” because the trees change into monster-like shapes due to the heavy snowfall and winds.

The hotel has a big focus on food. The owner-chef, former head chef of a hotel in Kyoto, makes dishes you can enjoy as a dinner course, seminar, or try the party course with meeting with family and friends (party courses may be limited due to the Coronavirus, please check before booking). Recommended are the dinners made with locally produced ingredients, but what is really special are the variety of signature dishes at Pension Swiss you can’t find anywhere else. 

Very popular is the Fluffy Egg Snow Monster (shown above). This cute little tree ice breakfast, created by the owner, inspired by the “snow monsters” of the region.  You can choose to stay only, breakfast included or half-board with meals. There are different plans to choose from that can be viewed on the homepage.  

For the safety of guests, the lodging is currently limiting group sizes due to the Coronavirus so if you would like to stay as a group larger than 2 people, please send them a message. 

Travel to Zao and meet the snow monsters on the slopes, bathe in historic hot springs and relax at your holiday home, Pension Swiss.

Kaziya Annex Ramakkoro Yamaneko House

Take a trip to Kaziya Annex Ramakkoro Yamaneko House neko in Ichinoseki-shi, Iwate and be wowed right from the approach to the entrance. Before you even enter, you can enjoy the beautiful Japanese garden. 

The main building has a rich history and has been in business since the mid-Edo period. It has been visited by Japanese novelists such as Kenji Miyazawa and Katai Tayama of the Meiji era. The owners have been welcoming guests with the same warmth for more than 300 years and will continue to do so in the future.

The Kaziya Annex Ramakkoro Yamaneko House was built some 40 years ago, and is the annex to the long-established ryokan. The entire building is equipped with free Wi-Fi and plenty of sightseeing brochures to provide you with information on travel to Iwate. All of the rooms are Japanese style with a bath, toilet, sink and amenities such as body wash, shampoo and towels. With only nine rooms the style is cozy and homely. 

Getting to the hotel is easy by public transport. It’s a 5 minutes walk from Geibikei train and bus station and parking is available if you come by car. There are lots of things to do in the local area. Geibikei is a ravine selected as a National Place of Scenic Beauty and Natural Monument and is only 6 minutes walk from the hotel. Walk along the river and take in the beauty of the limestone formations that shape the ravine. Guests who would like to leisurely float by and enjoy the scenery can catch a 90 minute boat ride. Non-claustrophobic visitors can challenge themselves to a walk in the Yuugendo caves. The caves are around 350-million-years-old and 50 meters deep! There are also many other historic sites, shrines and temples in the surrounding areas to visit. At the hotel you can rent a car with “Yamaneko Car Rental” and explore places not accessible by public transportation. 

The ryokan is highly recommended for its cuisine. Taste the rare and valuable Iwate Minami beef: fatty, yet light and tasty, the pride of Japan’s seafood from the suburbs of Kesennuma, the local vegetables and rice. Each and every ingredient is produced with care in Iwate. The old-fashioned local dish “hatto” (similar to suiton) served at breakfast is very popular among tourists. Hatto is a wheat flour dumpling dish common to the Tohoku region. You can choose room only, breakfast included or half-board with dinner included too! The Iwate Beef Plan is the most popular and comes with both breakfast and dinner. 

Take a trip to Iwate and stay in Kaziya Annex Ramakkoro Yamaneko House for a traditional Japanese travel experience. Walk through the ravine and visit the nearby temples and sample the beautiful nature Iwate has to offer! 

Yorokobi No Yado TAKAMATSU

Have you ever wanted to visit Kusatsu, a place famous for its traditional Japanese onsen? Well if it’s been on your trip list and you haven’t been yet then why not take the trip? Walk around the quaint town in a yukata, try the local sweets, and take a visit to the Yubatake (Hot Water Field). The Yubatake is Kusatsu’s symbol and is one of the main sources of hot spring water for the area.

Yorokobi No Yado TAKAMATSU is only 4 minutes to the Yubatake, 1 minute to the Otakinoyu famous bath. You can stroll around the hot spring town in a casual yukata, soaking up the traditional atmosphere.

Kusatsu Onsen is number 1 in Japan for the largest quantity of hot water as a natural gushing spring. This is about 46 million liters of hot water a day, enough for 230,000 drums! It is a natural hot spring with a free-flowing hot spring source, pure hot water with a volume of 32,000 liters per minute flows freely. It is a hot spring that boasts a strong disinfection power. The strength of the sterilizing power is shown in the strong PH2.08 acidity of the water.  Most bacteria and germs cannot breed in the hot water, and they disappear. Apparently, if you soak a 10 yen coin in it for a week, it will melt away!! 

Yorokobi No Yado TAKAMATSU has different types of baths where you can enjoy the sulfar-scented natural water straight from the Yubatake source. The famously hot source water is cooled naturally so guests can experience a 100% naturally sourced bathing experience. In the large open-air baths, you can soak in cypress baths, rock baths and a pottery barrel bath. There are also private baths available for reservation so you can soak and enjoy the garden in privacy. 

Stay in the hotel’s clean, wood-scented Japanese-style rooms or functional Western-style rooms decorated with a Japanese feel. The rooms are filled with flowers of the four seasons that subtly reflect the colors of the season, the serenity of the space allows guests to be enveloped in the gentle scent of the season. Semi-suite rooms are available with an onsen in the room to enjoy. 

Yorokobi No Yado TAKAMATSU is currently taking certain preventative measures against the Coronavirus in order for guests to enjoy a safe stay. Meals will be served with a space between the seats at the banquet hall or restaurant and is also available in a semi-private room. They have eliminated the number of elevators used and thoroughly sterilize them along with tables, cushions, chairs, appliances, and other surfaces. Employees wear masks and sterilize uniforms. Employees and guests will be asked to cooperate with body temperature measurements. 

If you are looking for a relaxing time at Kusatsu hot springs right in the center of Kusatsu then Yorokobi No Yado TAKAMATSU welcomes you. A new building is due to open in autumn of 2020 so what are you waiting for? 

Kusatsu Skyland Hotel 

Maybe you are itching to get to Kusatsu but instead of a central location near the Yubatake, you would prefer to stay a little further away from the action in a serene, nature-filled location.   

Kusatsu Skyland Hotel is situated on Kusatsu’s high point, only a 10-minute walk from the Yubatake. Enjoy nature and soak in a hot spring 100% natural, in the hotel surrounded by a grove of trees. Experience the sound of the wind, the sound of the birds, delicious aromas, the smell of the hot springs, and the food made with seasonal ingredients. By staying here you can enjoy the five senses and spend time being healed by nature.

Not only can you feel the warmth of the bathtub made of Japanese cypress, and relax in the rich medicinal properties of the Kusatsu hot spring. View the green scenery that changes with the seasons through the window behind the bathhouse. You can also rent a private bath if you would like to bathe together with your family. Refresh your mind and body with the combined effect of the famous Kusatsu hot spring and the hotel’s healing stone spa (bedrock bath).

There are different styles of rooms to choose from to suit your taste; Japanese style rooms or without tatami, Asian style, and Scandanavian style rooms. All are decorated with style and comfort. You can choose your stay plan by room type and there are plans that include breakfast per night or stay without meals. 

Dining on the seasonal dishes is something else you cannot miss out on while staying at Kusatsu Skyland Hotel. Joshu barley pork and Akagi chicken nabe (hot-pot) are the recommendations. In the summer, the nabe and chawanmushi (savory steamed egg custard) are replaced with cooler dishes. The hotel is especially proud of its pork from Gunma Prefecture. Gunma Prefecture produces a large amount of barley, which is fed to the pigs. The pork meat produced is tender and delicious and has passed the strictest hygiene standards in Japan.

Although most hotels prepare a breakfast buffet, the hotel serves breakfast in a dining room. After a hearty dinner, the next morning they serve a light meal with carefully selected ingredients that are easy on the stomach.

If you are looking for a short weekend trip visit the famous onsen area of Kusatsu and relax in the healing waters of Kusatsu Skyland Hotel. You are sure to be refreshed and rejuvenated by the end of your trip! 

Find Beauty in Gunma, Iwate, and Yamagata and Loose Yourself in Nature

Wether your preference is snow-filled mountains, hot steamy waters, or beautiful limestone ravines, we are sure you can find something in the recommendations above that you will love. Where are your favourite places in the northern area of Japan? We would love to know if you have any other recommendations!