The small city of Takasaki is in the Gunma prefecture along the JR Train line. 100km north of Tokyo, Takasaki is the perfect destination for a day trip. Takasaki is known as the birthplace of the Daruma Doll, a Japanese good luck charm based off a Buddhist monk who meditated for too long and had his arms and legs fall off; hence the round, almost oblong shape. You can check out the city or take one of the efficient buses towards Mt. Haruna or to one of the many other destinations a short trip away.
1. Haruna Jinja
There has been a shrine of some sort at this exact location for the past 1400 years. Dedicated to the God of Water, Fire and Agriculture, this is the place to visit for those seeking good fortune for love or money. The beautiful forested 700 meter route takes you past historic buildings, the 7 gods of good fortune, and a tree rumored to be almost 1000 years old before ending at the Haruna Shrine.
- Address: 849 Harunasanmachi, Takasaki 370-3341, Gunma Prefecture
- Price: Free!
- Website: http://www.haruna.or.jp (must use translate app)
2. Takasakibyakue Daikannon
This enormous city symbol was built in 1936 and is in the image of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. With the head crowning at 41.8m and weighing 5,985 tons, you can enter and walk up all 9 levels to the shoulder where you can see the beautiful views of surrounding Takasaki from inside the statue.If you can visit in April you will be just in time to watch the 3000+ cherry trees that surround the statue be in full bloom.
- Address: 2710-1 Ishiharamachi, Takasaki 370-0864 , Gunma Prefecture
- Price: ¥200/ $2 USD to enter the statue
- Website: http://takasakikannon.or.jp/access.html (must use translate app)
3. Minowa Castle Ruins
When they say ruins they mean ruins, what was once a heavily fortified castle is now little more than stone walls and deep moats with very few remaining buildings. And while most of the castle area is heavily overgrown the 2km path is a gorgeous walk of lush scenery and hidden glimpses of the past. The Minowa Castle Ruins are on the list of top 100 castles in Japan, and for good reason. Even half there they are spectacular.
- Address: Misatomachi Higashiakiya, Takasaki 370-3105, Gunma Prefecture
- Price: Free!
- Website: www.city.takasaki.gunma.jp (must use translate app)
4. Check out the Daruma Dolls
Takasaki is the largest producer of Daruma Dolls, a quirky good luck charm that is supposed to represent a famous Zen monk named Bodhidharma. The traditions surrounding the doll (something to do with making wishes and burning them on the night of the new year in a massive bonfire) originated in Takasaki over 200 years ago and is now spread all over japan.
- Address: Takasaki City, Guna Prefecture
- Price: Varies
- What to Do: When you get your Daruma Doll there are no eyes, at the start of a new year (or when you get it) make a wish and paint one of the eyes. When you feel that you have achieved your wish you can then paint the other eye.
5. Misato Moss Phlox Park
If you are in Japan during the brief period of April to May you absolutely MUST visit the Misato Moss Phlox Flower Park where the red, white and pink moss phlox flowers are blooming in carefully arranged designs. The sweet scent will encourage you to stay and enjoy the beautiful view.
- Address: Matsunosawa Misatomachi, Takasaki 370-3113 , Gunma Prefecture
- Price: ¥300/ $3 USD
- Design 2016: Princess Orihime’s Pink Robe of Feathers
6. Sample the Yaki-manju
This Japanese sweet is a local favorite in the Gunma Prefecture. It is a roasted sweet bun made from flour, rice powder and buckwheat that has a sugary filling made from boiled azuki beans and sweetener. The local recipe is covered in a sweet soybean sauce. Warning: if you want to try this yummy treat you’ll need to stand in line! You can even buy some at the souvenir shop at JR Takasaki Station that you can bring home with you and cook there.
- Address: Takasaki, Guna Prefecture
- Price: Varies
- Festival Food: Sold at cherry blossom viewing parties and summer festivals
You step into a cave and suddenly everything this is different, when you enter the Dokutsukannon
you enter sacred grounds that hosts 39 stone Buddha and Kannon statues. These statues are lit up, but instead of being eerie there is a sense of peace that enshrouds the 400m long cave. The sacred grounds were constructed by Tokuzo Yamada in 1919, and he worked on them for the ext 50 years to make them a reminder of the nature of the world.
- Address: Ishiharamachi, Takasaki 370-0864, Gunma Prefecture
- Price: ¥800/ $8 USD
- Website: http://www5.wind.ne.jp/yamatokuen/06english.htm
Rights next to Dokutsukannon is one of the most famous Japanese gardens in the Kanto region. One of the most spectacular features of this garden is the undulating landscape, even though the original land that was purchased was completely flat! The earth dug out of the Dokutsukannon cave was used in the construction of the garden.
- Address: 2857 Ishiharamachi, Takasaki 370-0864, Gunma Prefecture
- Price: Free!
- Best View: From the veranda of the house
9. Guna Prefecture Nippon Silk Center
Do you love silk clothing? Here is a place where you can learn all about it! The Nippon Silk Center goes over the history of the silk fabric as well as the life of the silkworm. Raw silk has been produced locally since before the Meji Restoration in 1868. Definitely visit to find out more about one of the most beautiful fabrics out there.
- Address: 888-1 Kanekomachi, Takasaki 370-3511, Gunma Prefecture
- Price: ¥200/ $2 USD
- Website: http://www.nippon-kinunosato.or.jp
10. Shorinzan Darumaji Temple
The temple dedicated to Shorinzan Darumaji has been around since the mid-1600s and is host to one of the most important festivals of the region. The annual Daruma-Ichi is held every January and sells the Daruma Dolls that bring good luck. Hundreds of thousands of people swarm the temple to get their dolls blessed and say prayers for the new year.
- Address: 296 Hanadakamachi, Takasaki 370-0868, Gunma Prefecture
- Price: Free!
- Website: http://www.daruma.or.jp/eng/index.html
Traveling to a new city is always fun but sometimes it can definitely be stressful, so make sure to read up on Takasaki and check out some of the things to do listed above so that you have a memorable time during your stay!
Have a good trip and travel!