(sometimes spelled "Gumma
") is a prefecture
in north-central Japan
, with most of its 2 million residents in a valley sandwiched between the Echigo Mountains
and Kanto Mountains
. It borders on Saitama
to the south, Nagano
to the west, Niigata
to the north, and Tochigi
to the east. The largest cities are Maebashi
(121,000), and Isesaki
What is now Gunma was once called Kozuke, and experienced its most rapid growth with the development of the Tosando road, which linked the northern coast of Japan to the eastern coast during its medieval period. However, it is known that the area has been settled since ancient times: the Nihon Shoki records a battle between Gunma and Saitama in the 500's CE, and digs in the area have revealed Stone Age implements, keys in unraveling prehistoric Japanese culture.
Today, Gunma's topography makes it a popular spot for tourists. Mount Tanigawa, at 1,978 meters, is something of a mecca for Japanese mountain climbers, and the three volcanoes known as Kamimitsuke (Mount Akagi, Mount Myogi, and Mount Haruna) give the area a wide array of breathtaking gorges and waterfalls, not to mention an equally wide array of relaxing onsen resorts. Out of the 80 onsen resorts in Gunma, the three "yokozuna" are at Kusatsu, Ikaho, and Minakami.
Major industries in Gunma include train building, automobile component manufacturing, textiles, and computers. Historically a major rice cultivation area, Gunma's agriculture is now directed toward crops and livestock that are sold to supermarkets in Tokyo and other heavily populated areas of the Kanto region.
Gunma is 90 minutes away from Ueno on JR's rapid service trains, or about an hour on the Shinkansen.