Last week’s post was about Tengu (てんぐ / 天狗), so this week I need to start with ぐ (gu). A big thank you to everyone who joined in and played the game, especially UK Seikatsu who suggested Glico (グリコ), the Japanese confectionery company famous for Pocky and guinomi (ぐい飲み), which I think is some kind of large sake cup, and sequinsandcherryblossom who suggested Gunma (群馬). Going with the last idea, I have decided to write about…
Gunma (ぐんま / 群馬)
Gunma Prefecture (群馬県 / Gunma-ken) is located in the northwest corner of the Kanto region of Japan.
I’ve never been to Gunma, but I’ve heard that it’s quite famous for its hot springs (onsen). Some of the most popular hot spring resorts in Gunma are Kusatsu Onsen, Ikaho Onsenand Minakami Onsen, according to Japan Guide.
There are two things I think of when I think of Gunma. One is Super Happy Awesome Fun Time with Alice and Sean. Alice and Sean have written on numerous occasions about Gunma’s mascot, Gunma-chan, who even has his own blog. Prefectural characters are very popular in Japan, but Gunma-chan does seem to be a particularly active one. Here he is greeting a child in a store – cute!!
The other thing I think of when I think of Gunma is J-List, the popular online Japanese goods store run by Peter Payne. J-List’s head office is located in Gunma, and recently Peter commented on a blog that, although there was a lot to like about Gunma, it had been ranked last in the annual survey of most interesting prefectures (Gunma, The Least Interesting Prefecture). Mind you, I love this picture posted on the same blog – it makes Gunma look like a really interesting place!
Even if there’s not a huge amount to do in Gunma but sit around in hot springs and relax, it seems like a beautiful place in which to do that. These pictures from JNTO certainly make me want to visit there for a bit of downtime!
Oze is a national park and excellent hiking destination in the mountains about 150 kilometers north of Tokyo. Its most well known features are the Ozegahara Marshland and the Ozenuma Pond. A number of surrounding mountains are also included within the park. Oze is extremely popular during the blooming of skunk cabbages in the late spring and early summer and during the fall colors of early autumn, whereas in the winter it is covered in deep snow and is rarely visited. (Japan Guide)
Gunma’s tourism website (which has an English version) is a good place to find out more about what Gunma has to offer: visitgunma.jp. If I ever find myself there, I will certainly be visiting Usaburo Kokeshi, Japan’s largest craft center of Sosaku (original) Kokeshi dolls, where visitors can paint their own Kokeshi doll.
Gunma is also the home of Daimonya, the home of Takasaki Daruma dolls. Gunma Prefecture actually produces the largest amount of daruma dolls in Japan and here visitors can see how they are made and even paint the features on their own dolls.
Gunma probably isn’t going to make it on to many people’s travel itineraries, but if you happen to find yourself there (if you decide to teach English in Japan it could happen!), it doesn’t seem like such a bad place to be. Also, it’s less than an hour by bullet train from Gunma’s capital, Maebashi, to Tokyo, so hardly the middle of nowhere.
Gunma (ぐんま) ends with ま (ma), so next week I will be looking for a noun beginning with “ma”. Here’s a quick reminder of all the ‘ma’ words we’ve had so far this year: Mameshiba, Matsumoto, matsuri and maneki-neko. ‘Ma’ is quite an easy one, so please join in with your suggestions below and I’ll give you a mention next week. It’s getting tougher now as the year comes to an end (only 4 weeks to go!), so I really appreciate your ideas and input! But don’t forget, no words ending in ん! (^_^)v