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Big thanks to everyone who submitted photos for the GAJET spring 2019 photo contest! You can see all the submissions down below. Vote for your favorite pictures via the Facebook photo gallery. One “like” equals a vote.

Voting has closed and our winner has been decided. Congratulations to Paul for his amazing photo of a daruma burning!

We hope to see more great photos for the next contest!

Gallery: I Can Japan 2019

May 27, 2019 | GAJET Events, Gallery, JET Life | No Comments

The GAJET community gathered in Maebashi this past Saturday for the eighth annual I Can Japan charity event. ALTs and locals alike gathered for an evening of great food, performances, and prizes. All the money raised at this event is given to the Komochiyama foster home in Shibukawa, Gunma.

We hope to see you all next year. In the meantime, check out the photos from the event. Thanks to Jansen Magarro and Gavin Au-Yeung for taking pictures.

Gallery: GAJET Art Share 2019

April 14, 2019 | GAJET Events, Gallery, JET Life | No Comments

A big thanks to everyone who performed and showed up to last week’s Art Share. Check out some of the photos below!

Photos by Jansen Magarro, Valerie Landers, and Josh Frankle.

Gallery: March 30 BBQ

March 30, 2019 | GAJET Events, Gallery, JET Life | No Comments

Thanks to everyone who came out to the barbecue today. The weather was chilly, but the people (and food) were warm.

Check out some of the photos below!

Photos taken by Gavin Au-Yeung and Haydn Zimmer (as noted in individual photo captions).

Finding Sakura in Gunma

March 17, 2019 | Blog, Gallery, Guides, JET Life | No Comments

Pink petals float on the breeze as the sun’s gentle rays shine down. Sounds of children playing echo across a green field.

It’s finally here! Spring has returned at last!

A season associated with rebirth, spring is the time when we end our winter hibernation, crawl out from under the kotatsu, and bask in nature renewed. In April, a new school year will begin, and young scholars will embark on new adventures. Nature follows suit, as cherry blossom boughs burst into bloom in the early season. These precious petals can be seen across Japan. But act quickly! Their season is only about two weeks.

So grab some snacks and beverages, lay out your picnic blanket and soak it all in! Popular parks in Tokyo will attract thousands of visitors, eager to participate in the tradition of hanami (flower viewing party). Not to be outdone, Gunma cherry blossoms across the prefecture will put on their best show.

Cherry blossoms are set to bloom soon, as weather forecasts predict an early start to the 2019 hanami season. Knowing where to go is half the battle when it comes maximizing your cherry blossom viewing experience. Here are some of the best places in Gunma for cherry blossoms!

1: Maebashi Park

Gunma’s capital is a perfect spot for your first hanami! The Tone River runs through the park, providing a stunning backdrop for the cherry blossoms. At night, enjoy the blooms by lantern light along the hill. And of course, vendors provide festival staples like karaage and takoyaki.

My visit: April 8, 2017

2: Tomioka Silk Mill

Springtime cherry blossoms adorn the historic grounds of Tomioka’s own World Heritage Site, the Tomioka Silk Mill. Enjoy them under the warm sun during the day, or come to see the nighttime illumination of the sakura.

This year’s illumination period will run from approximately 6pm – 8pm each night from March 25 – April 7 (dependent on blooming conditions).

Pro tip: Check out the nearby shops, such as Kuturogi, which carries a number of delightful gelato flavors!

My visit: April 9 (day) and 12 (night), 2017

3: Kanra Total Park

This park in Kanra boasts plenty of picturesque cherry blossoms, and water to go with.

If you’re lucky the cherry blossoms will be in bloom at the same time as Kanra’s Castle Town Warrior Procession, a festival which sees the townspeople on parade, dressed up as samurai of the past. Be sure to check it out this year, as you may see some friendly Gunma ALTs in the mix!

There’s also nearby Rakusan-en if you want to combine cherry blossom viewing with a bit of exploration. Rakusan-en is Gunma’s own historic daimyo garden! The grounds are another great setting for photos, with the koi pond and traditional buildings.

My visit: April 9, 2017

4: Akagi Senbonzakura

Return to Maebashi for a comfortable stroll through the woods for the Akagi Senbonzakura, or Thousand Cherry Trees, Festival. As you emerge from the woods you’ll be greeted by a road lined with vendors, festival food, and of course, sakura! The cherry trees share some of their glory with phlox and other greenery, but it’s safe to say the cherry blossoms themselves are the stars of the show.

This year the Akagi Thousand Cherry Trees Fetsival will be held from April 6 – 21 2019 (tentative depending on flowers).

My visit: April 15, 2017

5: Shiroijuku Double Cherry Blossom Festival

North of Maebashi, the city of Shibukawa holds the Shiroijuku Double Cherry Blossom Festival. The double cherry blossoms boast more petals than their single-petal compatriots. You can find them in full view around Shiroijuku, but don’t miss out on the parade and festival foods as well!

My visit: April 22, 2018 (the day of the festival!)

6: Mt. Haruna

Gunma’s lovely mountains mean that there are chances you can catch blossoms that show up later than their buddies in the valleys. Hanging out on Mount Haruna, I was surprised to find cherry blossoms still out – in May! Harunafuji may still be quite brown, but you will see signs of color beginning to appear!

My visit: May 4, 2018

Pro Tip: Check Out Your Own Backyard 😊

If crowds aren’t your jam, if the distance is too far, or sorting the transportation is daunting, fear not! There are cherry blossoms for everyone! Don’t feel silly searching for them along the path less trodden. Cherry blossoms don’t need a park or a crowd to show off! This spring you’ll find cherry blossoms all around; if this is your first spring in Gunma you might be surprised by what you find locally, whether you’re in the inaka or the big city. You can even ask some of your neighbors or coworkers where those hidden top spots are!

Thanks to a local tip during my first year in Gunma, we learned about this park in Tomioka. The climb up this small “mountain” is great exercise, and I’ve never seen it particularly crowded. The side of the mountain is lined with cherry trees, and when you get to the top you are rewarded with even more beauty, the Tomioka view of Myogi and Asama. If the timing is right you can get cherry blossoms and daffodils together!

Pictures from April 2017, around Gunma.

Contribute to the never-ending search!

Follow and contribute to #gunmagems on Facebook and Instagram. Let’s spread the wonders of Gunma!

Post your photos on Instagram using the hashtag #gunmajet for a chance to be featured on GAJET’s Instagram page.

Know other places in Gunma worth sharing? Leave a comment down below.


Valerie Landers is a third-year JET in Tomioka. Dabbler in languages, worker of puzzles, and unofficial hype-woman for Gunma. She loves festivals, flowers, and fireworks. There’s a growing collection of houseplants in her apaato, and if you can’t find her there, she might be driving on one of Gunma’s mountains or hanging out in Chakichi, Tomioka’s wonderful matcha café. Follow her adventures on Instagram @duchessmouse

Thanks to everyone who submitted their photos for the 2019 winter photo contest. Congratulations to Daniels Simmons for submitting the winning photo!

Stay tuned for the next photo contest.