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Nestled in the serene slopes of Mt. Haruna in Gunma Prefecture, a short train ride from Tokyo, lies the enchanting town of Ikaho Onsen, and within it, my destination, a ryokan called Kouunkan.

Known for its hot springs, courtesy of the dormant Mt. Haruna volcano, this town is a blend of nature’s wonder and traditional charm. My journey to Kouunkan, a modern-style Ryokan (Japanese inn), began with a bus ride from a nearby train station, leading me halfway up the mountain to this idyllic destination.

Table of Contents

Ikaho Onsen Kouunkan Kouunkan

Welcoming Hospitality and Unique Ambiance

Upon arrival at Kouunkan i was greeted by helpful staff and led to my room, where tea and snacks awaited – a testament to the impeccable service Japan is famous for. The uniqueness of Kouunkan lies in its rooms, each bearing a distinct name and design, reflecting various aspects of Japanese culture.

Ikaho Onsen Kouunkan Room

My room, ‘Urushi’, was adorned in vermilion lacquer, a traditional technique, creating a mesmerizing ambiance. The intricate details of urushi lacquering, encompassing columns, walls, and floors, symbolize the essence of Japanese aesthetics.

Ikaho Onsen Kouunkan Room

Diverse Thematic Rooms

Kouunkan’s allure is significantly enhanced by its diverse thematic rooms, each offering a unique experience deeply rooted in Japanese culture and nature. The rooms have names such as ‘Hana’ (Flower), ‘Tori’ (Bird), and ‘Tsuki’ (Moon), and each one has its unique style.
Ikaho Onsen Kouunkan Kyoto Room

Each of these rooms, including the majestic ‘Misu’, inspired by the noble residences of Kyoto, showcases a different aspect of traditional Japanese aesthetics. The ‘Misu’ room, with its torii gate entrance, transports guests to the ancient world of Japanese nobility.

Ikaho Onsen Kouunkan Torii
What sets these rooms apart is the inclusion of private outdoor baths. These baths, offer a blend of privacy and luxury, allowing guests to immerse themselves in a uniquely personal relaxation experience. This thoughtful addition elevates the stay at Kouunkan, making it not just a visit to a Ryokan but a journey through the rich tapestry of Japanese culture.
Ikaho Onsen Kouunkan Private Bath

Indulging in the Hot Springs at Kouunkan

The hot springs at Kouunkan are a centerpiece of the Ryokan experience, blending natural wonder with thoughtful design. The indoor baths, whose layout is shaped like an owl – the symbol of the Ryokan – offer a unique and immersive experience.
Ikaho Onsen Kouunkan Owl
The waters here are naturally tinted a reddish-brown, a result of the rich iron content from the nearby dormant volcano, Mt. Haruna. This peculiar hue adds an intriguing visual element to the bathing experience, while also providing therapeutic benefits. And it suited me so well after a long day of sightseeing and travelling.
Kouunkan Hot Spring

A Culinary Journey Through Local Flavors

The dining experience at Kouunkan is a celebration of local cuisine, intricately tied to the seasons. During my stay, the autumn-themed menu was a delightful exploration of seasonal ingredients and traditional culinary techniques.

Ikaho Onsen Kouunkan Dinner

Each dish was a work of art, carefully prepared and presented, embodying the spirit of the season.

Kouunkan Dinner

The flavors were a testament to the rich agricultural heritage of the region, highlighting the freshness and quality of local produce.

Exploring the Charm of Ikaho Onsen Town

Venturing out of Kouunkan, I found myself immersed in the quaint and charming ambiance of Ikaho Onsen Town. This town, steeped in tradition and natural beauty, is most famous for its 365-step stone staircase, a symbolic path promising good fortune to those who climb it.

As I ascended the steps, I passed through the vibrant heart of the town, lined with an array of shops and eateries. This bustling strip is a mosaic of local culture, offering everything from handcrafted souvenirs to tantalizing street food.

Ikaho Onsen Kouunkan Steps
The top of the staircase brought me to a serene shrine, enveloped in the breathtaking beauty of autumn foliage. The colors of the leaves, in shades of crimson and gold, created a natural tapestry that was a feast for the eyes.
Ikaho Onsen Kouunkan Shrine
Further exploration led me to the striking vermilion Kajika Bridge, arching gracefully over a gently flowing stream. This bridge, set against the backdrop of vivid autumn colors, was a picturesque sight that I will remember for a long time. The combination of natural beauty, cultural richness, and the warm, inviting atmosphere of the town made my visit to Ikaho Onsen a truly memorable part of my journey.
Ikaho Onsen Kouunkan Bridge


Leaving Kouunkan, I carried with me memories of a place where traditional Japanese culture harmoniously blends with modern comforts. From the unique thematic rooms to the therapeutic hot springs and the vibrant town of Ikaho Onsen, Kouunkan stands as a testament to Japan’s enduring charm and hospitality. So if you are looking for a traditional ryokan relatively close to Tokyo, check out Kouunkan!

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Where is Kouunkan?

Josip Hotovec
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