Ikaho Onsen Guide

Located almost in the center of Gunma Prefecture, it is a popular Onsen resort in Japan with relatively easy access to Maebashi City, the prefectural capital, and Takasaki City, the largest city in the prefecture, which is also located nearby.

Located 700 meters above sea level at the eastern foot of Mount Haruna, the symbolic mountain of the area, Ikaho Onsen has been known for many years. The Manyoshu (Anthology of Myriad Leaves) contains nine waka poems that include the name of Ikaho, and it is assumed that people have been visiting the area as a therapeutic Onsen since 1,400 to 1,500 years ago.

There are two types of spring water, “Golden Onsen(kogane no Yu)” and “Platinum Onsen(Shirogane no Yu),” which have different appearances and fragrances, and visitors can enjoy them by visiting different Onsen baths.

The stone staircase in the center of the Onsen resort is the most famous and the 365 stone steps are the symbol of Ikaho Onsen. Restaurants, souvenir shops, and old-fashioned playgrounds line both sides of the stone steps, and there is also a place where you can watch the source of the spring water flowing and a footbath spot.

Nearby are Mt. Haruna, a sightseeing spot with a sense of nature and history, Ikaho Forest Park with its abundance of wild birds, a viewing deck from which you can enjoy a panoramic view of Gunma's famous peaks, Tanigawa-dake and Akagi-san, as well as many art galleries and museums. These are all places where visitors can enjoy themselves after having enjoyed the hot springs to their heart's content.

With easy access from Tokyo, this hot spring resort is attracting attention as a place that can be easily visited.

Get to know Ikaho Onsen

Area guide

Ikaho Onsen is located in Ikaho-cho, Shibukawa City, almost in the center of Gunma Prefecture, and along with Kusatsu Onsen, is one of the representative Onsen resorts of Gunma Prefecture.

It has been loved as a therapeutic Onsen resort by many people, including warlords and celebrities who have made their names in history, for quite some time.

Located at the eastern foot of Mt. Haruna, a famous mountain in this region, at an elevation of 700 m, the Onsen resort is built on a slope.

The 365-step stone staircase, built 400 years ago, is located at the center of Ikaho Onsen, and at the top of the staircase stands the Ikaho Shrine, which watches over this Onsen resort.

At the beginning of the staircase is a plaza, where there is a Onsen waterfall with Onsen flowing along the staircase.

On either side of the stairway are numerous restaurants, souvenir shops, and old-fashioned amusement parks that form the Onsen resort.

There are also several public and footbath locations provided by the bathhouses in the middle of the stairs, which can be used even by non-guests.

In the middle of the stone stairway, there is a place where Onsen is distributed to the inns, which can be seen through a glass window at the Komanguchi entrance.

While slowly climbing the stairs to the shrine, visitors sometimes take a break to soak their tired feet in the Onsen at the footbath along the way. You can enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Onsen resort area in this way.

At the end of the stairs, behind the Ikaho Shrine, there is a place where “Golden Onsen”, which is also the source of the Ikaho Onsen, is gushing out. Nearby, there is a public open-air bath with free-flowing Onsen water and a drinking fountain. This is also easily accessible, and is popular among those who enjoy walking slowly through the elegant streets.


From Tokyo

<Shinkansen / Train / Bus>
Tokyo Station (Joetsu or Hokuriku Shinkansen) → Takasaki Station (JR Joetsu Line) → Shibukawa Station / Shibukawa Station bus stop (Kanetsu Kotsu) → Ikaho Onsen (about 1 hour 55 minutes)

< Bus>
Tokyo Station / Yaesu South Exit Bus Stop (Kan-Etsu Kotsu Highway Bus) → Ikaho Onsen (approx. 3 hrs. 10 min.)

From Haneda Airport

< Bus>
Haneda Airport/Bus Terminal (Kanetsu Kotsu Highway Bus) → Ikaho Onsen (about 4 hours)

From Sendai

<Shinkansen / Train / Bus>
Sendai Station (Tohoku Shinkansen) → Omiya Station (Joetsu or Hokuriku Shinkansen) → Takasaki Station (JR Joetsu Line) →Shibukawa Station / Shibukawa Station bus stop (Kanetsu Kotsu) → Ikaho Onsen (approx. 3 hrs. 5 min.)

From Osaka

<Shinkansen / Train / Bus>
Osaka Station (Nozomi Shinkansen) → Tokyo Station (Joetsu or Hokuriku Shinkansen) → Takasaki Station (JR Joetsu Line) → Shibukawa Station / Shibukawa Station bus stop (Kanetsu Kotsu) → Ikaho Onsen (about 4 hours 20 minutes)

Water quality

There are two types of Onsens, known as “Golden Onsen” and “Platinum Onsen” in Ikaho Onsen.

“Golden Onsen” is a calcium-sodium-sulfate-hydrogencarbonate-chloride Onsen (neutral hypotonic Onsen).

Originally clear and colorless, it turns brownish brown when exposed to air due to the iron content.

“Platinum Onsen” is a neutral hypotonic cold mineral spring, but because its meta-calcic acid content is above the limit of the Onsens Law, it is classified as a ‘Onsen’ as defined in Article 2 of the Onsens Law.

It is clear, colorless, tasteless, and odorless, and is suitable for the elderly and people after illnesses due to the trace amount of constituents contained.

The general benefits of each Onsen are as follows

“Golden Onsen” is generally effective for cuts, peripheral circulatory disturbance, sensitivity to cold, depression, dry skin, chronic pain or stiffness of muscles or joints (rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lumbago, neuralgia, frozen shoulder, bruise, sprain, etc.), muscle stiffness in motor paralysis, gastrointestinal weakness (upset stomach, gas in the intestines, etc.), mild hypertension, glucose intolerance (diabetes), mild hypercholesterolemia, mild asthma or pulmonary edema, hemorrhoid pain, autonomic instability, etc. It is said to be effective for muscle stiffness in athletic paralysis, gastrointestinal dysfunction (upset stomach, gas in the intestines, etc.), mild hypertension, glucose intolerance (diabetes), mild hypercholesterolemia, mild asthma or emphysema, hemorrhoid pain, autonomic instability, stress-related symptoms (sleep disorders, etc.), recovery from illness, fatigue, and health promotion.

“Platinum Onsen” is said to be effective for convalescence, recovery from fatigue, and health promotion.


It is said that Ikaho Onsen began as a result of volcanic activity at Futatsu-dake on Mount Haruna, and was discovered approximately 1,900 years ago.

Many poems in the Manyoshu (Anthology of Myriad Leaves) and Kokin Wakashu (Anthology of Modern Japanese Poetry) mention Ikaho, indicating that people have been visiting the area as a Onsen resort since a very early time.

There are various theories as to the origin of the word “Ikaho,” including the Ainu words “ikabop” (meaning “heated bath”) and “yukawa” (meaning “river”), and “iikao” (meaning “good face”), which is said to mean “very scenic.

The Onsen resort is located in a mountainous area at an elevation of 700 m, and the sloping terrain is used for its design.

The stone steps that symbolize the Ikaho Onsens are said to have been built about 400 years ago, in 1576, by Suketoshi Kigure Shimofusa, who had lived in Ikaho for generations and was under the control of warlords Uesugi and Takeda (who later promoted the establishment of the Ikaho Onsens Community and became its “Oya”), and others, and the town of Onsens began when the slope was used to build a Onsens resort.

The highest point in the Onsen resort is the source of the Onsen, and the Ikaho Shrine, which protects the town, is located there.

It is also recognized as the site of the first Onsen city planning in Japan, where the Onsen town was systematically designed to use the sloping terrain and distribute the Onsen to the inns on both sides of the town.

It is said that the Onsen was built for the treatment of warriors and common people who were sent to battle at the time.

In the Edo period (1603-1867), when travel by warriors and commoners began to flourish, the area became widely known as a recreational resort, and many writers and artists visited the area.

In the Meiji period (1868-1912), the only imperial villa in the prefecture was established, and many people of business and culture began to visit the area, which was also used as a summer resort for foreigners.

The fact that the area has been the setting for many of Japan's greatest literary masterpieces further increased its popularity.

There are two types of hot springs in Ikaho: “Golden Onsen” and “Platinum Onsen”.

Originally, only “Golden Onsen” was available, but “Platinum Onsen” was newly discovered in 1996.

“Platinum Onsen” which boasts an abundant gush of water while containing only a trace amount of ingredients, is also now enjoyed by many people.

The stone steps, a symbol of Ikaho Onsen, underwent a major renovation in 1980, and the number of steps was increased to 365 so that the area would be crowded 365 days a year.

At that time, the Yutaki waterfall and a peek-a-boo window at the Komanguchi were also built.

Today, the elegant townscape, including the surrounding facilities, has become an attraction, and the area has become a Onsen resort that attracts many tourists.