Japan City Guides: Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture
While the area has lots to offer, because it’s not on most tourist maps Takasaki is a lot quieter and more laid back than Tokyo. Takasaki still has all the comforts of a big Japanese city, such as convenience stores and good train connections, but feels like Tokyo would have before the boom economy.
Takasaki has a population of 375,342, concentrated around the main station, which is connected to Tokyo via the Joetsu Shinkansen line. Many people here commute to Tokyo. Takasaki is a medium sized Japanese city, so has a good mix of the city life and countryside life.
If you are staying in Tokyo, Takasaki makes for a great day trip. It is also worthwhile stopping here on the way to Nagano or Niigata. There are many shrines, temples and traditional shops to explore in this city. The main area for tourists to explore in Takasaki is Kannonyama.
The main reason to come to Takasaki is to see the Byakue Kannon (White-Robed Kannon), a huge statue of Kannon in Kannonyama. Over 40 metres tall, it's one of the biggest in Japan. Visitors are allowed to walk up to the top for 300 yen, providing a great view over the city and surrounding mountains. Take a 10-15 minute bus ride from Takasaki Station to the Kannon sancho bus terminal. There is an area map just next to the bus terminal.
View from top of Byakue Kannon; Ishiharamachi shopping street, Takasaki, Gunma
Along the way to Byakue Kannon is Ishiharamachi shopping street. The area has retained a traditional feel, and is lined with old style buildings. There are many shops selling traditional crafts and foods, so don't be afraid to go in and try things out. It’s also a great place for old-fashioned Japanese meals, such as soba noodles or tempura. During the cherry blossom season, the whole area is full of cherry blossom trees. It makes the view from Byakue Kannon even more impressive.
Within the Byakue Kannon complex, there is a large temple, Jiganin. Visitors should have a look around these areas, especially during the cherry blossom season. The temple is well maintained, with lots of useful information on signs explaining the history and meaning behind the area.
Daruma dolls are can be seen around this temple complex. Daruma are usually painted red and are considered to bring good luck to owners. Buy one and make a wish! Takasaki is the home of the daruma doll and a large percentage of them are produced here. Takasaki Daruma Market (Daruma Ichi) is held at Shorinzan Daruma Temple on the 6th and 7th of January. There is a small museum dedicated to the daruma doll including antique daruma dolls at the temple.
Daruma dolls can also be bought in various colors and sizes from the souvenir shops at Takasaki Station.
Places to stay in Takasaki
Takasaki is a large city, so it has the usual large selection of hotels, including all the good chain hotels. Business hotel chain Toyoko Inn has two hotels right next to the station including the Toyoko Inn Takasaki Ekimae Honkan, as does the far more luxurious Takasaki Washington Hotel Plaza. The APA Takasaki Ekimae Hotel, which has a nice spa, is also right next to the station.
Access - Getting to Takasaki
Takasaki is on the Joetsu Shinkansen line from Tokyo Station (1 hour). Cheaper standard trains also operate from Ueno Station (100 minutes). You may need to change at Urawa station or Omiya station on the way. From Shinjuku Station take the Shonan-Shinjuku Line to Takasaki. Karuizawa is one stop westbound from Takasaki.
From Takasaki Station there are trains on the Agatsuma Line to Shin-Maebashi, Shibukawa, Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi for buses to Kusatsu Onsen and Manza-Kazawaguchi. The Ryomo Line has trains to Shin-Maebashi, Maebashi, Kiryu and Oyama. The Shinetsu Main Line runs trains to Annaka and Yokokawa.
The Joshin Line, operated by Joshin Dentetsu runs nearly 34km between Takasaki Station and Shimonita Station.
From Narita Airport there are limousine highway buses to Takasaki taking about 3 hours. There are also limousine buses from Haneda Airport, Tokyo's other main airport.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tomioka Silk Mill is a 40 minute journey by train from Takasaki.
Transportation in Takasaki
There are buses to Mt. Kannonyama and around town radiating out from the train station, which has a Tourist Office.
Matthew is a blogger, game developer and writer living in Tokyo, Japan. He writes for Cheapo Japan, a travel guide dedicated to budget travel in Japan. You can read more of his work at www.cheapojapan.com