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Refreshing Greenery at Usuiko in Gunma

There are parks with man-made lakes, then there are those natural lakes that are also parks. Usuiko is in the former category, but it’s not just for the sake of pretty. What’s in a lake? We saw this one on the map while driving through Gunma Prefecture in Japan. We were glad we decided to stop by. Totally worth it!



I’m really grateful to the residents of Annaka for this scenic spot. It isn’t even a park per se, but a lake along the Usui River that’s been built as a dam and doubles as a rest stop for cars. It’s the prettiest, nicest lake-cum-park-cum-rest stops that I have ever seen.

There is a map near the parking area showing the route around the lake. The walk around the lake takes about 20 minutes. It took us twice the time to go around, as we walked slowly savoring the clean air and lovely views 🙂

Keeping the Water Clean: Sakamoto Dam 坂本ダム

After climbing up the log stairs we were greeted by a dam. It was built in 1957 and it is one of those rare dams whose main purpose is not to hold water supply but to improve the flow of water in the river for irrigation purposes.

My one regret is that I was so enchanted by the view on the lake side that I forgot to take a photo of the other side, where the dam slope is.

Bridge of Smiles: Hohoemi-bashi ほほえみ橋

Walking further we saw this bridge.

I love the arching shape! The red bricks contrast very well with all the green.

Walking Close Together: Fureai Tunnel ふれあいトンネル

Further along we receive cool shade from the many trees lining the lake.

And then this tunnel greets us. I don’t know why it’s named ”Fureai tunnel”. “Fureai” ふれあい is one of those chameleon-like words that can be translated to communication/interaction/closeness/contact/socializing/get-together and even petting (as in petting zoo), depending on usage. I guess it’s because the tunnel is dark and you have to cling to whoever you are with out of fear of spiders and the unknown 🙂

Strolling to the Main Attraction

The tunnel is short, thankfully, and we come out and see more delicious green.

Blue skies and tree-covered mountains somehow soothe not just the eyes, but also the soul. Especially for city dwellers like us, scenery like this makes us go “wow”.

Relaxing view of the bridge

Relaxing view of the bridge

And the air. The air smells great, so clean and fresh. It’s always the first thing I notice whenever I visit forests or the areas near them.

Carrying Your Dreams: Yumenose-bashi 夢のせ橋

We then arrive at the main attraction. Well, not really, except that it’s a gorgeous bridge so I think it’s the main attraction. Wait, isn’t the lake itself the main attraction? Yes, true. Note to myself: there isn’t always a main attraction, and often it depends on the person.

Don’t you love this scenery? It’s beautiful how the sky and mountains and bridge are reflected on the lake below.

My favorite scene at Usuiko

My favorite scene at Usuiko

I liked it so much it is where I decided to do my watercolor sketch.

This place would look amazing in autumn. In fact, I can guarantee that it will. Check out the related link below for proof 🙂 I do want to go there again when the fall colors come out, even if it takes four hours by car from where we live.

How to Get There

We reached this place by car. I haven’t tried via public transportation but it seems it isn’t that far away from the nearest bus station. There is also a hiking route from Annaka’s famous bridge, Megane-bashi (“Eyeglass Bridge”).

Access: Take the JR Shinetsu Honsen and get off at Yokokawa station. Get on the JR Bus Kanto (Megane Bus) and get off at the Usuiko bus stop (about 11 min).
Address: 379-0307 Gunma Prefecture, Annaka, Matsuidamachi Sakamoto

交通: JR東日本信越本線横川駅よりJRバス関東(めがねバス)約11分・「碓氷湖」バス停下車。季節運行路線につき運転日に注意。
住所: 〒379-0307 群馬県安中市松井田町坂本

I Would Love to Hear from You!

So, what do you think of this article? Please share your thoughts and opinions in the Comments section below.


External Links

碓氷湖 Usuiko – page of the lake by Annaka City, containing a few photos. 群馬県安中市のページ
Tokyo Rainbow Bridge as an Art Object – article on decorating with bridge artwork, including the “Bridge of Dreams” brick bridge mentioned above. 橋関連の画像・絵画をインテリア装飾として使う提案。

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  1. noritan /


    • beverlyclaire /

      ありがとうございます!そう言ってもらえてすごく嬉しいです♪ 本当に久しぶりの水彩画なので自信がないのです。お褒めの言葉、励みになります^^ これからも描き続けたいと思います。

  2. Nice place. Pretty watercolor! Pic is nice but I like painting better 😀 You should paint more often, girl 🙂

    • beverlyclaire /

      Thank you so much! I’m so flattered that you like the painting best 😀 You’re so sweet–mwah! I do hope to paint more often now. When I was a kid I didn’t have the money to buy supplies; now I have no excuse at all 🙂

  3. What a lovely place! It looks so pristine. But I guess that’s just in comparison to where I live where there would surely be trash somewhere in the photos.

    • beverlyclaire /

      Hi slf! Thank you, I’m glad you found the place lovely. There was not a piece of trash in sight. There was a sign that said (in small letters) “Please take your garbage home with you”. A nice way of saying “Do not litter”. It’s public property but obviously well maintained. I think the cleanliness has also something to do with the fact that there are no garbage bins around. People are not given the opportunity to dump their stuff.


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