Getting Around in Gunma
Almost all areas of Gunma are accessible by either train or bus. Local trains service most major cities and towns in Gunma. Many major sightseeing and leisure areas are only accessible by taking a bus from a major station, but the bus system is safe, reliable, and fully documented in Google Maps. Note that some buses and trains in more rural areas only run once an hour or less, so it’s best to plan your day in advance.
The local bus network covers almost all areas of Gunma.
Schedules and routes
Google maps has accurate information on all bus routes in Gunma. Just type in where you’re coming from, where you’re going, and what time you’ll take your trip, and Google will do the rest for you.
How to ride
The general flow of local buses in Japan involves getting on in the back, and paying when you get off at the front. Local bus fares in Gunma are payable by cash (exact change) or Gunma bus card. They do not take IC train cards or credit cards. Here’s a step-by-step guide to buses in Gunma:
|1. Stand visibly at the bus stop. When your bus is approaching, raise your hand to let the bus driver know you want to get on the bus. Some buses don’t stop unless there’s someone waiting at the stop, so make sure they see you!
|2. Get on the bus at the back entrance (in the middle of the bus). Take a boarding zone ticket (整理券 seiriken) from the orange box. The boarding ticket will be a plain white rectangle with a number on it, which indicates where you got on the bus. NOTE: Buses with a flat fee don’t have boarding tickets—if there’s no ticket sticking out of the orange box, and no one else took tickets when they boarded, it’s okay to not take one. ALSO NOTE: There are no tickets at the terminal station. Just assume you got on at zone 1.
|3. When your stop is next, press the stop button. There are buttons throughout the bus, so find the one closest to you.||
|4. The electronic fare table at the front of the bus will show how much you need to pay based on what stop you got on at. Look for the number that matches your boarding ticket—you owe the indicated amount.
For example, in the adjacent image, if your boarding ticket is 4, and you’re getting off at the next stop, you would owe ¥550.
|5. Wait until the bus comes to a full stop, then drop your boarding ticket and your fare in exact change into the fare box and exit through the front of the bus.||
NOTE – Change machines: You must pay your fare in exact change. There is a change machine at the front of the bus that takes 1,000 yen bills and large coins, and exchanges them into the full range of denominations. The general manner is to make change when you get on the bus or somewhere along your journey, and then have the exact change ready when you’re getting off the bus. Please be safe when standing or walking on a moving bus!
|You can buy prepaid Gunma bus cards for use in Takasaki and Maebashi at several locations around Takasaki, including Takasaki Station and Takasaki Aeon Mall. Here’s how to use them:
||Bus card types|
Schedules and routes:
The easiest way to check Gunma train times is by using Google Maps. Simply type in what station you’re starting from, where you want to go, and what time you’ll start your trip and Google will display the information for you.
You can also use websites like Hyperdia (English & Japanese) and Yahoo Japan (Japanese only) to check train times. These websites are also helpful if you want to modify your search by price, number of transfers, transit time, etc.
NOTE: In the event of an emergency or major delay, both Google Maps and Yahoo Japan update their train schedules in real-time in order to give users the most accurate/up-to-date information possible. However, we recommend talking to a station staff to confirm any details in case of a sudden emergency or event.
How to ride
Gunma has both privately owned train lines and JR East lines.
All JR East owned trains in Gunma operate under the same system as other JR lines. You can use any pre-paid IC card (i.e. suica or passmo) at all stations along these lines.
However, most of the privately operated trains in Gunma do not accept IC cards. Instead, you must purchase a physical ticket from a ticket machine or ticket window, present it to the station staff or ticket gate when boarding, and return the ticket when exiting the train.
When boarding trains at small, rural stations that are unmanned and do not have any place to buy tickets, you must board the train directly (without a ticket), take a numbered ticket voucher from the fare-machine inside the train, and settle your fare when you exit the train (either with the train staff or station worker).
List of train lines that operate in Gunma:
JR East (Japan Rail East) Lines
The Agatsuma Line (吾妻線, Agatsuma-sen) connects Shibukawa and Ōmae stations in Gunma Prefecture. It is a local railway line that runs approximately 55.6km, following the course of the Agatsuma River. Although the official terminal station is Shibukawa, all trains run through to/from Takasaki via the Jōetsu Line.
The Hachikō Line (八高線, Hachikō-sen) connects Hachiōji Station in Hachiōji, Tokyo with Kuragano Station in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture. It is a 92.0 km regional line that runs across Tokyo, Saitama, and Gunma Prefectures.
The Jōetsu Line (上越線, Jōetsu-sen) connects Takasaki Station in Gunma Prefecture with Miyauchi Station in Niigata Prefecture.
The Ryōmō Line (両毛線, Ryōmō-sen) connects Maebashi station in Gunma with Oyama station in Tochigi Prefecture.
The Shinetsu Main Line (信越本線, Shin’etsu-honsen) connects Takasaki and Yokokawa stations in Gunma Prefecture.
The line originally was one continuous line that connected Takasaki, Nagano, and Niigata Prefectures but is now limited to three geographically separated sections. The line that operates in Gunma terminates at Yokokawa station.
The Takasaki Line (高崎線, Takasaki-sen) connects Ōmiya Station in Saitama Prefecture and Takasaki Station in Gunma Prefecture. All trains on the Takasaki line (except through Shonan-Shinjuku Line trains) run to/from Ueno Station in Tokyo via the Tōhoku Main Line.
NOTE on JR East Pass
Purchasing a JR East Pass allows you to travel along any of the JR lines for free (both shinkansen and local lines). For more information on the JR East Pass please go to the JR website here.
However, the JR East Pass does not include any of the privately owned lines in Gunma (Jōmō Line, Jōshin Line etc.), so you will need to purchase a separate, additional ticket to ride any private lines.
Privately Owned Lines
The Jōmō Line (上毛線, Jōmō-sen) connects Maebashi and Kiryū stations in Gunma Prefecture. It is operated by the Jōmō Electric Railway Company(上毛電気鉃道 Jōmō dentetsu) .
*The Jōmō Line does not accept IC cards.
Jōmō Line website: http://www.jomorailway.com
The Tobu Isesaki Line (東武伊勢崎線, Tōbu Isesaki-sen) connects Isesaki station in Gunma to Tōbu-Dōbutsu-Kōen Station in Saitama. The line then becomes the Tobu Skytree Line and continues until Asakusa Station in Tokyo.
Tobu Isesaki Line website: https://www.tobu.co.jp/foreign/en/
The Watarase Keikoku Line (わたらせ渓谷線, watarase keikoku-sen) connects Kiryū Station in Gunma and Matō Station in Nikkō, Tochigi. This line usually operates with normal train cars but also has a unique, open-air trolley train that makes one round trip daily. For those interested in riding on this special, old-fashion train, you can buy tickets directly from stations along the Watarase Keikoku Line.
*Please note that in order to ride the old-fashion trolley, you must purchase both a train ticket and a boarding pass.
*The Watarase Keikoku Line does not accept IC cards.
Watarase Keikoku Line website: https://www.watetsu.com/torokko.html
The Joshin Line (上信線, Jōshin-sen) connects Takasaki Station and Shimonita Station in Gunma. The Joshin Line is operated by the private railway company, Joshin Electric Railway (上信電鉄, Joshin Dentetsu).
*The Joshin Line does not accept IC cards.
Joshin Line website: https://www.joshin-dentetsu.co.jp