Japan: Traveling to Takasaki, Gunma

In preparation for the Waseda Fall Festival, students get a three day break before the festival.  During this time, I wanted to take a break from the city and experience the natural side of Japan and see some of the famous changing autumn leaves.

I took this trip solo and I encourage you to do the same.  I was able to book a place with a family using Airbnb and really get to know them all.  Staying with them, I was also able to practice my Japanese language skills the whole time, all the food I was served was homemade or homegrown (even though soybeans!), and to top it all off, their house was over 100 years old, allowing me to truly experience a traditional Japanese home.

On my only full day in Takasaki, I hopped on the bus until I got to Haruna Jinja, a shrine near the Haruna mountains and a great place to see some of the fall leaves.

There was a long pathway up to the main shrine area that had gorgeous views of the red leaves and a small valley to the right that had a creek flowing down it.

I was in Takasaki a little too early to see the peak of the changing colors but I did manage to find these tree.

The beginning of the stairs up.. The shrine is at the top of the mountain and there is a tiny look out where you can see a waterfall flowing off of a cliff in the distance.  I was amazed at the size of the two trees next to these stairs.

Next, I went to Harana Lake to try to do some hiking and get some good views from the top of the mountains.

The mountain I climbed was about 1,500 meters high and most of the way up were these old rickety wooden stairs. So tiring and so worth it.

The view facing away from the lake.

And the lake!

Honestly, going down the mountain was the scariest part of my trip.  The stairs were steep, the path narrow and slippery, and the edge was about a meter away.  The stairs don’t look that steep but on some of them I actually had to sit down in order to get to the next step safely.

On my final day in Takasaki my host took me to a local apple picking orchard before dropping me off at the station.  In Japan, the fruit for sale is all carefully selected so that it always looks perfect and much bigger than your average fruit in America.  And of course, delicious.

Traveling alone truly gave me an experience to immerse myself in nature and escape the city for a few days.  It was so relaxing to be able to go to the shrine and go hiking and be completely surrounded by the trees.  I got so many opportunities to practice my language through speaking with other locals.  Just in those three days I could tell how much my listening comprehension and the fluency of my speech improved.

-Natalie Balkon


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