Ikaho Onsen is a lively little hot spring town that lets you explore and stay by a dormant volcano. This charming onsen town can be found on the eastern slope of Mount Haruna in Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture.
Ikaho flourished due to the efforts of Takeda Shingen, a warlord who saw the benefit of the nearby hot springs for his soldiers to recover.
This was during the Muromachi Period of Japan from the mid-1300s to the end of the 1500s.
The town also has an interesting history with Hawaii that dates back to when Hawaii was a country.
There’s a villa within the town, known as the Villa of the Minister of the Kingdom of Hawaii, which has been renovated since its inception.
The townsfolk still pay homage to this relationship through an annual Hawaiian festival. There’s also a museum close to the villa where you can learn more about the history of Hawaii-Ikaho relations.
Exploring Ikaho Onsen
The town’s amenities are built around a beautiful stone road with stairs. Stay for a while in one of the ryokans while enjoying an invigorating hot spring bath after dinner or playing at the local retro arcades.
There are also various shops to explore while walking the stone steps.
The hot spring town offers an ambiance reminiscent of Japan in the past. When you need a rest, there are foot baths available to soak away any soreness from walking, as well as water fountains that are sourced from the hot springs.
Kogane no Yu
The Kogane no Yu baths are filled with golden hot spring water enriched with sulfate that leads to its coloring.
There have been many physical benefits associated with these golden waters above how incredibly relaxing the experience is.
For instance, those who have used kogane no yu baths have found relief for muscle pain and joint pain, as well as for fatigue.
Shirogane no Yu
This stunning platinum-colored bath has silicic acid that has been seen to help restore energy after a long day, as well as help relieve symptoms of fatigue.
This is the perfect place to bathe after exploring more of the physically demanding sights in and around Ikaho Onsen Town and Mount Haruna.
Ikaho Onsen Ishidan no Yu
Here you can rest and recharge in a golden hot spring bath or kogane no yu bath. You pay a small fee here, and these baths are open to anyone regardless of whether or not you’re staying in the onsen town.
Ikaho Onsen Rotenburo
This outdoor bath is filled with kogane no yu water as well and is a popular spot for women. Near the Ikaho Shrine, it’s believed that these waters can foster positive fertility for women who bathe here.
This is one of a few inns you can stay in within Ikaho Onsen Town. The atmosphere created within this inn is truly spectacular, as it is heavily inspired by old Japan.
Women can even rent a yukata robe to wear while exploring their snack shops and ramen spots, and you can even take a pottery class at the inn.
If you’re visiting Ikaho Onsen Town for the hot spring baths, booking a room at Oyado Tamaki will exceed your expectations.
Not only do you have access to your open-air bath within your room, but there’s a public bath with both golden and platinum water.
The inn’s large public bath offers a spectacular view of the Joshu mountain range. If you’ve worked up an appetite, there’s also a restaurant that serves delicious Japanese dishes.
You can truly get immersed in old Japan within Kishigon Ryokan, given that this ryokan has been in place for 500 years. There are also open baths within the inn that overlook the Joshu mountain range.
The inn is also known for having some very delicious and fresh Japanese food, as well as some Western foods and rooms styled in Western design to stay in.
Mount Haruna is a very large, tall volcano that has been lying dormant for a long time.
Thus, there are a lot of opportunities to get up close to this volcano while visiting Ikaho Onsen, as well as many other attractions found in the volcano area.
A caldera and crater lake can be seen towards the top of Mount Haruna, with the hot spring town and other event spaces standing nearby.
Lake Haruna is full of beautiful sparkling blue water, making it the perfect destination to do some fishing or boating.
You can rent rowboats or swan pedal boats for a half hour to make your way through the water and get a new vantage point to take in the mountain.
Fishing can be done here all year round, including in the winter. Ice fishing is quite popular at this lake. In the summer, there are also some spots to set up a tent and camp for an evening or two.
Within the caldera of Mount Haruna sits Haruna Fuji. This cone was named because it resembles the sacred Mount Fuji.
You can see this magnificence when riding on the nearby ropeway, or you can hike to the area if you feel so inclined.
You can view this shrine in the southwest area of Mount Haruna. This stunning shrine was erected in 586, with some buildings surrounding the shrine seeing renovations in the past few centuries.
Here, visitors come to honor the mountains of Japan, many of which have symbolic and cultural value to the country.
Even if you are not spiritual, Haruna Shrine is worth seeing for its construction, as well as the valleys and greenery surrounding it.
The Mizusawa Temple can be found just a short distance from Ikaho Onsen, as it sits right along the southeast portion of the mountain. This temple was built over 1300 years ago and is featured as one of the spots along the Kanto Kannon Pilgrimage.
The temple houses a statue of the Buddhist goddess Kannon, but unfortunately, the statue isn’t on display for the public.
There are other sights around the temple to see apart from the temple itself. For example, there is a beautiful pagoda adorned with intricate carvings of animals, and within the pagoda, there’s a column where you can rotate around three times for good luck.
Just down the street from the temple are some famous noodle shops, as Mizusawa is known for their incredible udon. Stopping for at least one helping of these udon noodles is a must, as they are famous throughout Japan.
Getting To Ikaho Onsen And Mount Haruna
Ikaho Onsen is easy to get to by bus. There’s a bus that you can catch at the Ikaho Bus Terminal that will take you to Mount Haruna.
This express bus will bring you to the Ikaho Onsen-Ikaho Ishidan-gai Higashi Shisho-mae stop. It’s a long bus ride but a scenic one, and the destination is worth it.