Ikaho Onsen is located almost in the middle of Gunma Prefecture, halfway up Mt. Haruna. The famous symbol of this Onsen area is the long stone steps. Alongside the stone steps are souvenir stores, with some of them offering a shooting gallery, and at the top of them stands Ikaho Shrine.
There is a famous festival called Hina Matsuri Festival in Japan at which people pray for their daughters’ or granddaughters’ well-being. Ikaho’s stone steps remind Japanese people of the tiered stand Hina dolls are displayed on. This is why “the Stone-Step Hina Matsuri in Ikaho” began. Pre-schoolers with Hina make-up in Hina costumes stand on the steps and are admired by many visitors not to mention their parents and relatives.
The most distinctive feature of the Ikaho hot spring water is its reddish-brown color. It is sulfuric acid that turns the spring water reddish-brown. A white towel will turn reddish-brown if soaked. Sulfuric Acid may sound dangerous, but it actually causes no harm to human bodies. Rather it is believed to work good on our skin. It is also believed to help people digest if drunk. There even are drinking places in the town. So why not try drinking it for your health although nobody can guarantee you’ll enjoy its taste. It’s worth trying as a Japanese saying indicates, “Good medicine tastes bitter.”
Once in Ikaho, the hot springs only gushed out reddish-brown water, but several other springs have been spotted recently which well out water with no color. The former is called “Gold Water,” while the latter is called “Platinum Water.” Ikaho Onsen therefore offers its visitors two different kinds of spring water during one visit. Imagine enjoying both a hamburger and ramen at McDonald’s at the same time. Doesn’t it sound fascinating?
You may have heard about “Onsen Manju,” Hot Spring Buns. Ikaho Onsen actually is the very place that the Onsen Manju was first produced. But why are they called Onsen Manju? It’s because those manju were steamed with the hot spring water.
Mizusawa Udon noodle is another local delicacy of Ikaho Onsen that you shouldn’t miss during your visit there. Mizusawa Udon is sold at shops and restaurants about a 5-min-drive away from Ikaho Onsen. This place is called the “Udon Street” for there are more than ten udon restaurants along the street. Mizusawa Udon is known for its chewiness. You can have it served hot, but the locals say it tastes best when served cold. Some restaurants offer “Eat-as-much-as-you-like-at-a-fixed-price” system. How many bowls of udon do you think you can eat? Try it!
Driving up on the winding road will take you to Lake Haruna, where you can enjoy not only boat-riding in summer but also ice fishing in winter as well as admiring brilliant illuminations.
Visit Ikaho Onsen to enjoy the old onsen town atmosphere and quality hot spring water. IT IS worth visiting.