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Goin’ Japanesque!

Gunma Travel: Harunako Illumination Festa, Onsen Hot Spring, Shrine & Nature

Illumination is one of representative winter events in Japan. Illuminations are displayed everywhere in Japan, and their characteristic vary depending on the venue.

This time I visited Harunako Illumination Festa (Festival) that was held on the shore of Lake Haruna in Gunma Prefecture.


Harunako Illumination Festa

This illumination display is a popular annual event, and each year approximately 130,000 people visit it.

Writer’s Photo

What marks this event different from other illumination events is definitely the lighting on the lake surface. The lights reflected on the water were really beautiful!

Climbing up to the summit by the ropeway and viewing the illumination from the top is recommended, too!

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The event venue is filled with many vendor stalls. Foods such as warm oshiruko (sweet red bean soup) will help warm up your body.

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Many illuminations are heart-shaped, and there are plenty of romantic places! It is great for couples in love. I heard there is even a service to project your message to the partner by lights against Mt. Haruna. I’m sure it is perfect for lovers to enjoy a romantic night together.

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Go-kart experience with shining lights is great for families! Many excellent facilities are available for children to have fun.

*In Japan many people share an idea that Christmas is a time for couples and New Year is for families to spend a relaxed time together.

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All the areas are really fantastic and they make you forget the time.
If you go a little bit early in time for the lighting at 5 PM, you can enjoy colorful lights coming to life all at once after the countdown!

Use a shuttle bus from JR Takasaki Station. (2500 yen, and reservation is required)
From Shibukawa-Ikaho IC (exit) on Kan-Etsu Expressway, take Rt. 33 and drive towards Lake Haruna for approximately 20 km. (parking: 500 yen)


Haruna Area, a Popular Outdoor Spot

As a matter of fact this Haruna where the illumination event takes place is a hot outdoor spot located in Gunma Prefecture. I am introducing several spots next that I would like you to enjoy together with the illumination.

1. Harunako (Lake Haruna)

This lake is located 1084 meters above sea level, and it is known to have the second highest altitude among lakes in Japan. From the shore of Harunako, you can command a beautiful view of Mt. Haruna, and you can enjoy rowing a boat or riding on a cruise ship during the day. In winter this is a great place for fishing pond smelt!

2. Harunasan (Mt. Haruna)

Harunasan, Akagisan and Myogisan are called Jomosanzan as a group. Haruna Fuji is particularly famous and don’t miss the upside-down Fuji that is reflected on the lake. You can enjoy climbing mountains, too.

3. Haruna Jinja Shrine

Writer’s Photo

Writer’s Photo

This shrine has a history spanning well over 1400 years, and it is a famous power spot with many blessings. The mysterious shrine is surrounded by many large trees and large rocks with unusual shapes.

Gunma Bus from the west exit of JR Takasaki Station: Take a bus to Harunako via Hongo, and get off at the Haruna Jinja-mae stop, and walk for 15 minutes.

4. Harunako Onsen Hot Spring

Harunasan is a volcanic mountain and naturally it has many onsen hot springs in the vicinity, and Harunako Onsen is one of them. There are also several onsen hot springs you can enjoy on a day trip without staying overnight at the inns.

I actually tried one of them and got the impression that the water quality is very gentle to the skin. I’d recommend this onsen.

(If you are using facility of Lakeside Yusuge)
Take a highway bus from Shinjuku Highway Bus Terminal: Get off at Ikaho Ishidan-mae (in front of stone steps) Bus Terminal and take another bus ride to Harunako Onsen Yusuge for approximately 10 minutes.


Harunako Illumination Festa is a fusion of big nature and lights, and it is enjoyable of course for couples, but also great for families and friends to join, too.

Haruna area offers excellent tourist attractions in addition to the illumination. Along with your Tokyo sightseeing trip, please set out further into the Kanto region around Tokyo, too.

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About the author

I major in Tourism Studies, and am a university student who loves Japan!

View all articles by Rikako