Get off the beaten path in wild Oze
Last updated: December 21, 2020
The Oze region in Gunma’s less-developed northeast is a hidden gem of natural beauty. View breathtaking natural landscapes, relax in hot springs in quaint villages, try an abundance of outdoor activities, and explore one of Japan’s most beautiful and biologically diverse highland marshes.
The impressive, 30-meter-wide Fukiware no Taki Falls gush forcefully 7 meters down into the basin of a secluded ravine. Get a superb view of this dramatic sight from the Ukishima Suspension Bridge, then see the falls from different angles along a forested path that runs parallel to the Katashina River. You will hear the thundering sound of Fukiware no Taki Falls as you stroll along the path, and there are three lookout points with bird’s-eye views. Note that the walking trails around Fukiware no Taki Falls are closed from mid-December to late March.
After the excitement of the falls, head to the hot spring village of Oigami Onsen, located just a few kilometers from the Fukiware no Taki Falls area. This quaint town has several traditional-style inns (ryokan) equipped with natural hot spring baths. Stay overnight and include a kaiseki dinner made with local seasonal ingredients with your accommodation package for the full experience. There is also a public bathhouse in town.
Another option is Kawaba Onsen, a charming village about 20 kilometers from Fukiware no Taki Falls at the foot of Mt. Hotaka. It is a good base for skiers and snowboarders visiting in winter, as it is near Kawaba Ski Resort and within a short drive of several other ski areas.
After a hearty breakfast at your accommodation, put on comfortable hiking boots and head to Oze National Park—the highlight of any trip to Oze. Hiking is the best way to experience the park. There are trails to suit every level, starting from the easily-accessible trailheads at Hatomachitoge and Oshimizu.
Pass through the beautiful natural scenery of Ozegahara, a highland marsh with brooks, ponds, mountain views, and native flora and fauna. The path is mostly along elevated wooden boardwalks with minimal incline.
The blooming of white-petaled Asian skunk cabbage flowers in late May and early June is particularly beautiful, but each season brings a variety of flowers, plants, and foliage.
If you are an experienced hiker and would like more of a challenge, you can hike up Mt. Shibutsu (2,228 m). Stay overnight at one of Oze National Park’s mountain huts or campgrounds before or after climbing to the peak.
Winter brings large amounts of snowfall to the Oze area—an ideal time to spend the day skiing at one of Japan’s lesser-known snow resorts. Tambara Ski Park, located high on Mt. Hotaka, receives large amounts of snow and has recently renovated facilities that are popular with families. Oze-Iwakura Ski Resort offers some steep slopes and an ungroomed section for intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders, while the skier-exclusive Katashina Kogen Ski Area is perfect for beginners and families.
After the day's adventures, relax in a hot bath. Oigami Onsen has more than 10 hot spring inns that are open to day-trippers.
If you are visiting Oze in winter, take a stroll through Oigami Onsen after the sun sets, to see the snowy streets lit up with hundreds of flickering candles that resemble fireflies. The Oigami Onsen Snow Fireflies event takes place on Saturday nights and the night before holidays throughout January and February.
If you're visiting between April and mid-November, be sure to get up early for Oigami’s large farmer’s market, held every day from 6:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. You can shop for local fruits and vegetables, Japanese-style pickles and souvenirs.
Spend your final morning in Oze relaxing at tranquil Lake Sugenuma, located in Nikko National Park. The lake’s water color appears striking shades of blue and emerald green depending on your vantage point. You can rent a canoe and explore the lake on your own, or try stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) on the calm water with a professional guide.
Another summer option is Tambara Lavender Park, known for its long lavender season from early June to late August. Throughout the summer you can see over 100 varieties of flowers here, including sunflowers, hydrangeas, daylilies, and bergamot. Take the chair lift over the fields for views of the slopes covered in blooms.