The Beauty of Minakami
For a nature-filled trip a short distance from Tokyo, Minakami in Gunma is the perfect place. When visiting Minakami, you are sure to fall in love with the snow-covered mountains, the amazing scenery and warm-hearted residents. The range of activities in Minakami is quite extensive and the following are a few of the things you could expect to do when visiting this beautiful area of Gunma.
Blue Moon Hill
Blue Moon Hill is a family-owned horse riding center in Minakami where visitors can take horse riding lessons, spend a night in a cozy tree house and in winter, you can even go snow trekking on a horse as you enjoy the beauty of Minakami. I went during the autumn and the beautiful colors of the area greatly add to the experience. Depending on your experience the staff starts you out with basic training and instruction. When I was growing up in Canada I did a little horse riding but I had forgotten everything so learning all the basics was great. Every member of the family was so warm and kind to me as I rediscovered how to ride. The horses are certainly beginner friendly as well and quite easy to approach. Incredibly smart, the horses not only return home by themselves, but they are able to understand where you want to go without using the bridle. One of the horses is even able to unlock and open the door to his stall by himself! If you want a little break from Tokyo to see the countryside landscapes and snow-covered mountains horse riding at Blue Moon Hill is a perfect experience. Depending on the day of the week, it costs between ¥6,000-7,000 for a lesson, and ¥9,000 for snow trekking. After every lesson, you also get to spend some time with your group or on your own riding around the facility. With a reservation the staff will pick you up you at Minakami station.
For lunch, I highly recommend going to Abe Apples where you can try delicious selections including apple curry, apple soup and apple pie. Making curry with apples is surprisingly a great idea and I will definitely be doing that from now on. I found the salty and sweet taste addicting. If you visit during the autumn you can buy fresh apples and stroll through the beautiful orchards while you eat.
After your first round of apples you can visit Dole Land, Dole’s fruit-centered amusement center. There, you can pick fruits, cook them and eat them afterwards! In addition to apples, I got to make blueberry jam and a few other fruit centered creations with the staff. I tried the fruit gelatos and Gunma’s own yellow apple, Gunma Megetsu. The fruits and foods here taste simply amazing and have a distinctly different flaor from any other varieties I’ve eaten.
At the end of the day, I tried my hand at creating konnyaku, a healthy food made from the roots of the plant of the same name. This activity can be found at Takumi no Sato, a small village in Minakami. During the Edo era, Takumi no Sato was part of the Edo-Tokyo road so all the buildings are distinctly Edo style and a pleasure to view. You can also try many Japanese crafts and cooking in the area. I got the change to work with a very nice and energetic woman who taught me how to make the Konnyaku. We had a great time making different shapes and forms with the konnyaku. If you want to experience making traditional Japanese food this is an excellent experience. Of course after creating there is the chance to eat! Konnyaku is very healthy and so tasty, especially when freshly cooked.