Category Archives: Gunma

Fuku Daruma / Daruma Market | KAWAGOE & TAKASAKI 【GUNMA】

I often get asked about Japanese New Year’s traditions. There are a  lot, but one close to my heart is the ancient tradition of purchasing Daruma dolls. It was the very first quintessentially Japanese New Year’s tradition I had the fortune to try.

My first New Year in Japan, 16 years ago, was spent in Takasaki, Gunma, which is an area famous for Daruma dolls. My friends and I had the rare opportunity to make our own Daruma. They are made from papier-mâché, are round, usually red with a face of a bearded man. The dolls are to some just a toy, but to most they are more of a talisman.  They are actually modeled after Bodhidarma the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism.

“Daruma0791” by Frank Gualtieri – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

When you buy the doll the eyes are not painted in. The idea is to paint in one eye, usually the left one, as you start a quest and paint the other one on completion of your resolution or task. As such, they have become a symbol of perseverance and good luck. The latter is attributed to the Daruma Temple which played a big part in increasing the popularity of Daruma as a good luck charm and as a New Year’s tradition. People who are firm believers in the Daruma tend to buy one every New Year and burn the old one as per tradition.

Both pupils in to mark completion of a task or resolution

Sometimes you see Daruma of different colour. In my own prefecture of Saitama, Fukaya is known for their green coloured Daruma. Supposedly green is more specifically as a good luck charm for health.  In Fukaya, green matches the colour of the city mascot!

One of the more traditional and popular New Year events in Japan is Daruma Markets. There is one in Saitama in Kawagoe’s Kitain Temple every year on the 3rd.  However, the best is the annual Takasaki Daruma-Ichi (Daruma fair) event held on January 6th (and 7th). Daruma Ichi is the largest and most famous daruma market in all of Japan.

The annual Daruma-Ichi (or Daruma Fair) is held on January 6 and 7 every year. During this event, there are the numerous booths around the Reifudo and Darumado, displaying all sizes of new Fuku-Daruma dolls(6cm~75cm) produced by local farm families. Hundreds of thousands of people converge on the temple to buy their Fuku-Daruma dolls for the new year and have them blessed.Source: Obaku Zen School | Syorinzan Darumaji

You can read more about Takasaki Daruma in English here:

You can read more about Daruma here:

Featured Image: “Daruma dolls”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Kawagoe Kitain Temple Daruma Market

Kitain Temple Daruma Festival | KAWAGOE

JULY Festivals and Fireworks 2016 | KANTO (TOKYO)

Kanto is the area around Tokyo, comprising Saitama, Kanagawa (Yokohama), Chiba, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma.  This is a calendar displaying festivals and fireworks in this area for the month of July. Click on the event for more information including time and place, and a link to either the official website or to a webpage with more information in English. I recommend you view as AGENDA.


Ikaho Green’s Farm | Gunma

Ikaho Green’s farm has a very good reputation and most people who go to it give it a good review. However, while I liked it and we really enjoyed ourselves, I found it to be more expensive than most farms in the Kita-Kanto (Northern area of Greater Tokyo).  The Sheepdog show is included in the price and that is something that you can’t see in many places. Plus, there are opportunities to get up close and personal with some of the animals that roam freely or are within arms reach. All things considered, it is a really fun family day out!

What can you do at Green Farm?

  • View a sheepdog and sheep shearing show, the largest of its kind in Japan.
  • Pet corner – costs 500 yen per person to spend sometime petting or holding rabbits.
  • Walk with sheep and goats – costs 500 yen per person for 15 minutes.
  • Milk the cows – costs 500 yen per person for one try.
  • Feed the calves – costs 500 yen per person for one bottle of feed.
  • Amusement park – 30 different activities and rides, each cost between 100 and 500 yen.
  • Ride on a horse drawn carriage – 800 yen for adults and students, 500 yen for preschoolers and below.

**Please check their website for up-to-date schedules for these events:

We visited on the 1st of May and there were still some late blooming cherry blossoms, yaezakura. The farm is very well maintained and is quite beautiful. It is suitable to children of all ages. It is quite hilly, but you can easily navigate between sections with a stroller. They have nappy changing and nursing room facilities for babies as well as child friendly toilets. There are places you can buy food and souveniers. The kids plate costs 750 yen, a Sundae costs 520 yen. You are allowed bring your own food into the farm. The sheepdog and sheep shearing show is toward the back of the farm and there is a camping site beside it (that needs to be booked in advance).  It was an interesting experience. The farmer is from New Zealand so he speaks in English quite a bit through the show. There is also a BBQ area, a museum and strawberry picking on the farm, all cost extra.



(2015) 1200 yen for adults, 600 yen for children over 3, free for 2 and under. As per above, each event costs extra. **Between early January and the end of February entrance fee is half the price. Physically disabled and people over 65 are also half price (all year round).



9am to 4pm. In the winter it opens at 10am. In January and February it is closed Monday through Thursday.



Roughly 2 hours from Tokyo and 90 minutes from Saitama. 8 kilometres from the Shibukawa Ikaho Interchange on the Kanetsu Expressway. Free parking for up to 700 cars. 19 minute bus ride from Shibukawa Station, bus bound for Ikaho Hotsprings ”伊香保温泉”

Address: 2844-1 Kanai, Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture 377-0027
Telephone: 0279-24-5335


For up-to-date costs, event schedules and opening hours please do check the official URL.

URL (English):


I AM SO HAPPY TO REPORT THAT ALL OF THE COUPONS AND VOUCHERS LISTED BELOW HAVE FOUND HOMES!!!! I do still have a few that weren’t on this list or multiples of ones that were on it, please PM me if you would like to request for any play area in Gunma. If I have a coupon for the place you are going, I will be happy to pass it on.
For regular readers, friends or passersby; I have a huge amount of discounts, vouchers and coupons for snow resorts, restaurants, onsen and play areas all over the Greater Tokyo area and further afield. I am going to list as many as I can over the coming days. This list is for GUNMA and for 2016 only. If you want to claim one of these offers, I can chakubarai it /them to your home, if you have an address in Japan. These discounts cannot be sent to an address outside of Japan OR to a hotel. Generally, each discount covers up to 5 people, but on the same day; coupons/vouchers are not reusable. All you need to do is comment below, and I will PM you to arrange post. You can comment as anonymous, if you please. Even if you use your name, your email address will remain private and will not be shown. The featured photo is of the cow of Kuwaya, which is one of the many places with a generous discount.

Toys kingdom
Toy’s Kingdom Karuizawa


  1. Numata area. Tanbara Ski Park. 500 yen off adult, 100 yen off child’s and 300 yen off senior’s lift pass with meal voucher. Two vouchers valid for up to 4 people. Valid until May 8th. (Ref A561 + A118)
  2. Minakami area. Ooana Ski Slope. 500 yen off 1 day adult lift pass for up to 5 people. Valid until March 21st. (Ref A568)  TAKEN
  3. Minakami area. Minakami Kogen + Okutone onsen – 1,400 yen off adults’s, 800 yen off kid’s day return pack (lift, lunch, onsen). Valid for one group of people. Valid until April 2nd. (Ref A568*) TAKEN. They also have a special family pack coupon on their website.  
  4. Minakami area. Okutone Snow Park – 4000 yen pack includes one day lift pass, meal voucher and soft drink. Saving of 1,250 per person. It can be used for upto 5 people. (Ref A137) TAKEN
  5. Minakami area. Norun Minakami Ski Slope – 1000 yen off adult’s pack, 800 yen off kid’s pack; lift, meal and other vouchers. It can be used for upto 4 people. (Ref A136) TAKEN
  6. Katashina area. Katashina Kogen Ski Slope – 500 off adult’s, kids and preschoolers lift pass for upto 5 people. Valid unitl April 3rd. (Ref A568) They also have a family set on their website.
  7. Tsumagoi area. Kazawa Snow Area – 200 yen off weekday price, 500 yen off weekend price,  for up to 5 people. valid until March 31st. (Ref A576)


  8. Karuizawa Toy’s Kingdom – 2 x coupons for 100 yen off for entry ticket for upto 5 people valid until March 28th. I also have multiple 100 yen off entry coupons, plus 500 yen off the “free pass” for adults, 200 yen off entry, 600 yen off “free pass” for kids for as many as is in your group . (Ref B1) On this blog:
  9. Shibukawa Skyland Park – 100 yen off a one day pass for 5 people together. Valid until year end. (Ref B165)
  10. Usui Touge Tetsudo Bunka Mura – 10% off entry for upto 5 people. Valid until year end (Ref B165)
    Poppo Town
    Poppo Town Usui Touge Tetsudo Mura


  11. Numata area. Kajitsu no Sato – 10% off entry for 2 people until end of year. (B1107). 10% off fruit picking, plus free sweets and drink. One voucher covers upto 5 people. Valid until 29th of February. (Ref A536)
  12. Numata area. Cherry picking Outou farm – 10% farm entry for upto 4 people. Valid until end of year.
  13. Numata area. Cherry garden Fujii – 100 yen off for one group. Valid until end of year.
  14. Numata area. Kurashina Fruit farm – 100 yen off for 2 people. Valid until end of year.
  15. Minakami area. Tsukiyono maruka Cherry Farm -300 yen off for one group. Valid until end of year. TAKEN
  16. Minakami area. Takumi no sato Fureai Farm – 10% off farm entry for upto 5 people. Valid until end of year. TAKEN

    ZOO / FARM

  17. Ikaho area. 100 yen off entry to Iakaho Green Farm for upto 5 people. Valid until 29th of February. (Ref A5100) **Please note that this farm is closed Monday to Thursday during winter. Thank you SS. 🙂
  18. Kouekizaidanhoujin Kouzu Farm – voucher for a free cup of milk for upto 4 people! Valid until end of year. (Ref B155)
  19. Kusatsunettaiken – 100 yen off entry for upto 5 people. Valid until the end of year. (Ref B158)

    ONSEN (Hot springs)

  20. Minakami area. Takaragawa Onsen – 300 yen off adult price, 200 yen off kids price. Two One vouchers, each covers upto 5 people. Valid until March 31st (Ref A534) and 29th of February (Ref B2). ONE REMAINING
  21. Takasaki Kyogashima Natural Hot spring – half price for adults. One coupon covers 6 people. Valid until 29th of February.
  22. Katashina area. White World Oze Iwakura – 200 yen off adult onsen price, 100 yen off kid’s price for up to 5 people. Valid until 10th of April. (Ref A567)
  23. Manza Onsen Hotel – 300 yen off adults, 150 yen off children’s hot spring. Valid until February 29th. For upto 5 people.
  24. Kusatsu Pool and Hotspring Hotel – half price on weekdays for adults. (Ref B2)


  25. Minakami Area. Voucher for a present of a rusk from Garba Baum Kuchen for purchases offer 1,000 yen. Valid until 31st of January. (Ref A5120) TAKEN
  26. Minakami Area. 10% of your bill at Kuwaya Cafe (pictured below and in the featured picture) for upto 5 people. Valid until January 31st. (Ref A5121) TAKEN

Kuwaya 1

Toy’s Kingdom, おもちゃの王国、Karuizawa

We visited the Toy’s Kingdom during the summer, while staying in Karuizawa. They have a huge marketing and advertising campaign this year and its working; I would never have known about the place otherwise. It is a nice place for young children and it’s quite reasonably priced.

1-H August photos

They have different packages you can avail of. We wanted to stay in one of their hotels with unlimited access to the Toy’s kingdom amusement park, but as they were booked up we stayed in another hotel nearby. We bought two free passes and two entrances, our one year old was free. The free pass does not cover all activities and the rides it does cover weren’t of particular interest to my toddlers, so I would actually recommend for children under 4 that you just purchase the entry ticket. The entry ticket covers the playrooms and small outdoor play areas. You can then purchase tickets separately for the rides you would like to try.  One turn on a ride is approximately 300 yen; some are 200 and some are 400.  An entry ticket and paying for 4 or 5 rides works out cheaper than buying a free pass.  Fishing is not covered by either an entry ticket or a free pass.  … Yes, their system is a little confusing!  This year there are lots of discount tickets available in many different places, including online. Keep an eye out for flyers in shops, they usually have a coupon attached.  The normal price for an entry ticket is 1000 yen for adults and 800 yen for children 2 years old and up.  Discounts are usually 100 to 200 yen off this price. The free pass price for adults is 2,800 yen and 2,600 yen for children.  Most of the coupons offer 500 yen off these prices.


The kids loved the playrooms.  Then 3-year-old son loved the “Tomica” room; wall to wall of cars and trains. 2-year-old daughter loved the mamagoto (playing house) room; kitchens, cookers, shopping, dolls etc.


08-PIC_2402 07-PIC_2403

My one year old also enjoyed the mamagoto playroom as it has a section suited to small babies with Anpanman toys. She also enjoyed the little play area outside this playroom with small slides and push-along-cars.


There is an athletic area that is suited to older preschool and primary school children. This is covered by the free pass, but not by the entry ticket. The kids have to put on elbow and knee pads and helmets for this area.  My kids tried it out too, but it was a little beyond their level and they packed it in fairly quickly.

10-PIC_2413 09-PIC_2412

They have a number of different amusement rides, most of them are suited to children of all ages. The one thing I found hard is that even with safer rides such as the carousel they require children younger than 4 be accompanied by an adult per child. At one point, my husband had gone for a roam and my son and daughter both wanted to get on the carousel with me, but they wouldn’t allow it. We had to wait for him to come back. When we were in FujiQ earlier in the year, both children were allowed come on the carousel with me and that was a bigger and faster carousel.  There are also a few battery cars, a paddling area (in the summer), a sandbox, beetle “fishing” and other activities dotted throughout the park.

There are a number of eateries, all over priced and drenched in fat! You can bring in your own food and there is open green areas where you can picnic.  There is only one feeding room and designated baby changing room. There are quite a few toilets, some with smaller toilets for children.  There are coin lockers. You can rent a buggy for a day.

One thing I really liked is that you can come and go from the facility once you have your ticket. We left the park after lunch to go for a drive and we were able to go back in on the same ticket.  Parking is free.  The surrounding area is also very pleasant and there is a little shop and bakery as you come into the resort with a lovely lake out back.


One thing to note is that this amusement park operates VERY differently during Winter.  Please see the website for further details.



2277 Omae, Tsumagoi, Agatsuma District, Gunma 377-1512




Opening hours

Monday to Friday 10.00 -17.00

Saturday/Sunday 9.30 – 17.00

GW/ Summer holidays 9.00 – 17.00


Poppo Town, Railway Village in Gunma

Poppo Town in Annaka City
Poppo Town in Annaka City

To be quite frank I was a little disappointed with Poppo Town, a Railway Cultural Village in Gunma, but I had high expectations due to the excellence of the Saitama Railway Museum which we visit often. There is no comparison between the two. The Saitama Railway Museum is in a league of its own. So taking Poppo Town for what it is rather than comparing it to possibly the world’s greatest railway museum, it was a fun day out with enough to keep a preschooler, a toddler and a baby entertained.

D51 498 SL train
D51 498 SL train

Poppo Town is located in Annaka City near the Nagano border. The location is very scenic and there are other attractions in the area, the most famous being the steam locomotive (SL). The steam locomotive runs through the city and the terminal is beside poppo town. We could see train-spotters set up with their cameras all along the train route as we came off the highway. We didn’t know at the time they were waiting for the D51 498 that would arrive later that day and we were very lucky to serendipitously spot the infamous SL oursevles. The train was removed from an amusement park 2 years ago for repair and restoration and now runs for special occasions in the Annaka City area of Gunma.

7-PIC_2305 8-PIC_2311 4-PIC_2227 6-PIC_2250  3-P1004909

Within Poppo Town itself there are various amusement rides for children which cost extra to use. There are also some train experiences, such as a mini-SL and an English train that laps the town, that you can try out also for an extra cost. You can pay for a return ticket on a train that goes out of the theme park to a hot spring.  You can book to operate a real train on real tracks, this too costs extra. Some of the things you can do are for free, like try pulling a train with a rope or sitting behind the controls of a train. As most of the things cost extra it can add up to quite an expensive day. Also, in high season the train rides and simulators are often booked up by 10am. Another thing to note is there is little in the way of food so you might want to bring your own.

We had a fun day, but we’ve been, we’ve seen, we’ve tried and once was enough for us. The unexpected view of a real steam locomotive was probably the highlight of the day.

UPDATE 2016: Walker Magazine has listed Usui Touge Tetsudo Bunka Mura aka Poppo Town and the area of Annaka as a recommended spot to enjoy Autumn leaf foliage in the Kanto Area.

Poppo Town or Usui Touge Tetsudo Bunka Mura (碓氷峠鉄道文化むら)


Address: 407-16 Yokokawa, Matsuida Town, Annaka City, Gunma. Tel: 027-380-4163

Access: 2 minute walk from the Yokokawa Station on the JR Shinetsu line.

4 kilometres from the Matsuida – Myogi Interchange on the Joshin Etsu Expressway. Parking is free. 220 parking places.

Entrance fee is 500 yen for adults, 300 yen for children over 6, preschoolers, toddlers and babies free. Train rides and amusement rides cost extra. Sometimes you can pick up flyers with a discount coupon of 100 yen.