The main attractions of Ikaho Onsen are located around its 360 stone steps (Ishidangai) which are lined by shops and small restaurants. In the center, the “golden” hot spring water (Kogane-no-yu) is running down. Onsen manju, buns filled with sweet bean paste and steamed over hot spring vapors, are the local specialty. Our favorite place is just to the right of the top end of the stairs, where you can watch the manju being prepared. They have a handmade look and were tastier than the others we tried. At the top of the stairs is Ikaho Shrine, and behind, Mt. Haruna (榛名山) is looming. Being one of the local attractions, it is accessible by ropeway, but we did not make it there.
Following a small street to the right, one reaches Kajikabashi, a vermilion colored lacquered arch-bridge crossing the hot spring source. It must be amazing during the season of the autumn leaves, but also with the fresh snow it looked very pretty. To a Japanese, a place would not be worth visiting if it were not for the local cuisine. The thing to try here is Mizusawa Udon. 10 minutes by bus from Ikaho Onsen, next to the Kannon temple, is the Mizusawa Udon street. We had an udon set with six different dipping sauces and “mountain vegetable” tempura, and it was fabulous. Even though with its many large hotels, Ikaho Onsen is a bit on the overdeveloped side for my taste, our trip was a nice experience with beautiful mountain views, interesting sights, good food and good bathing.