Haruna, Japan: Tackle the mountain, take in the view
Stars and Stripes November 26, 2010
Driving up to Mount Haruna in Gunma Prefecture, in Japan, my first thought was how much this popular landmark bears a resemblance to Japan's most famous formation, Mount Fuji. Albeit a smaller version.
Mount Haruna, an inactive volcano about 300,000 years old and whose peak stands at 1,449 meters, entices tourists with its outstanding views.
Haruna has also become a must-see spot for fans of the popular racing anime show “Initial D.” fans. Haruna, or “Akina” as it is known on the show, is where the main character, Takumi Fujiwara, makes his daily deliveries in his famous Toyota Sprinter Trueno.
Apparently there are plenty of fans of this series as I saw packs of racers parked or traveling throughout the area.
As for tackling the mountain, you can get to the top by ropeway or mountain trail, which is an intermediate level hike. Since it had rained heavily the day before, my friends and I decided to take the ropeway up and hike our way down.
Once you reach the top, you’re treated to breathtaking views. My friends and I felt particularly fortunate that we had beautiful weather to take it all in.
After making our way back down the mountain, we headed to Lake Haruna at the base of the mountain. There are a variety of activities the entire family can enjoy. As we walked along the lake, we came across many boat rental shops. The boats come in all shapes and sizes, including the swan boats that can be found across Japan. Once you get off the water, there are bicycles available for rent, including two- and three-seaters that were popular with families who rode around the lake. If you’d prefer something a little less labor-intensive, horse carriage rides around the lake area can be had.
Lake Haruna is also a nice spot for doing a little fishing or camping. In the winter, the frozen lake is a popular site for ice fishing. I’ve put that on my things to do list.
The town just to the east of Mount Haruna is Ikaho, a popular site home to many hot springs. Unfortunately, my friends and I didn’t leave ourselves enough time to soak in the soothing hot spring waters. We’ll plan better on our next visit.
One of the things that stood out about Haruna is how low key it all seems. It’s not as tourist-heavy as one might think considering the fresh mountain air and sheer beauty of the place. It all makes for a really nice, relaxing visit.
If you can’t make it there by car, traveling by train is another option for those interested. Catch the train to Shibukawa station and take the bus over to Mount Haruna.