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Right now through the end of September, our prefecture, Gunma, is having a campaign to try and get more tourists, called the Gunma Destination Campaign. Gunma is kinda… low on the list of great sightseeing prefectures. I mean, we have a lot of famous spots, and are close to Tokyo, but I remember watching a program where Tokyoites had to name all the prefectures in the region, and maybe two people got Gunma right out of a good 20. It just isn’t very well known. So Gunma is trying to change that, and is doing a lot of activities and advertising to get people into the prefecture.

One of the current things they have going on is that they are running two old fashioned steam trains and one other older train. The tickets for these trains are impossible to get. We tried. But if you walk around Takasaki City and buy things at a few select places, you can get these special edition Daruma painted black for the three trains they have going right now.

You know what Daruma are, right? They are painted statues that can’t be knocked over because of the way they are shaped. I really like them, and Takasaki is famous for them, so when we heard about the stamp rally we really wanted to participate. Last week was summer vacation and we didn’t have school, so we went to Takasaki Thursday to do the stamp rally and get the daruma!

That top picture is a look at the program, with two stamps already. There are three daruma, and that day we decided to get two of them. At the bottom and the page you can’t see is the list of shops you can buy train-themed things at.

We started off in the station, where Gunma-chan (the prefecture mascot) was there to meet us! We got the maps and the route and headed off.

You just find these banners and that place has things you can buy for the stamp rally!

Our first stop was a tenugui store that we had been wanting to visit anyway, but it was always closed. We bought the two train-themed tenugui, and several others!

On the left you can see the two train themed ones. I gotta go back for the cat one!

Next was a shop that sells sembei, or rice crackers. We got the train themed one, and also each bought one to eat then as a snack. Yum!

One of Takasaki’s covered streets, on our walk.

Next was a shaved ice place whose GIANT FREAKING HUGE snow cones were absolutely delicious! This one is milk tea. YUUUMM..

All the bikes outside the shop!

Last up for our stamps that day was a famous manju shop.

These are the manju, with the name of one of the steam trains on them. They have anko inside, which is a sweet paste made from red beans.

And here are the two daruma!

And also all our spoils for the day.

So we told Brandt and Mizuki about it, and they wanted to get a daruma too! And with two Kenji and I figured we might as well complete the collection and get a few as gifts.

So we went back to Takasaki the following (last) Sunday for another round of walking and shopping! We went to some of the same places, but some were closed, so we also went to several new ones as well. Both the tenugui and sembei places were closed, but the shaved ice place and manju place were open, so we went there.

We also went to a few others as well for the full set of three stamps each.

Takasaki Station’s Daruma exhibit, with giant versions of the three black ones in the middle!

This little shop had cookies that looked and were shaped like the coal the steam trains use. The cookies LOOK really unappetizing… but they tasted just fine!

This bake shop had some bread in the vague shape of a train. I got some other baked goods as well that were delicious!

Passing a few things on the way, including this vending machine with full meals inside! You can get Oden, Miso soup, ramen, curry, and even meat and potatoes!

I don’t think anyone uses this coffee shop anymore…

I didn’t get a picture of the second-to-last store, but this was our last stop, for some homemade udon noodles.

On the way back to the station, a Daruma-themed vending machine!

So we were all happy with our Daruma. I also told Allen and Briana about it, and they want to go too, so I might make a third trip to go with them. Walking around Takasaki is so much fun!

After the stamp rally, we came home quickly to change and meet people, then went back to Takasaki by train for the fireworks. We grabbed kebabs to eat, and then ended up just stopping to watch on the bridge across the river. They were really spectacular this year, if a bit short! I didn’t even bother to take many pictures, but I have two plus two videos.

We met Amy for the first time, who is the new Fujioka ALT who just came in a few days ago, and also the other new ALT, Briana, who has been here for a few weeks. Ken came, and it was nice to see him, and so did Katsu, so it was a nice big group!