Kusatsu Onsen is one of Japan’s most famous hot springs areas and is privileged with large volumes of high quality hot springs that claim to cure any disease.
Well known as a hot springs resort for many centuries, Kusatsu’s fame was further enhanced by German physician Erwin von Baelz, who served the imperial court in the late 1800s and recommended Kusatsu for the health benefits of its waters.
Kusatsu sits at an altitude of 1,200 meters above sea level in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture, and offers winter skiing and hiking opportunities for the rest of the year to enjoy in combination with a soak in hot springs. Kusatsu is also located where the Japanese Romantic Route passes.
Check out the main attractions in the Kusatsu Onsen area below:
Kusatsu Hot Spring Baths
Kusatsu has the largest natural stream of hot springs in all of Japan, many of which emerge in downtown Yubatake.
Sulphurous and highly acidic waters have been considered among the best in Japan for centuries, and the resort town is consistently ranked first in onsen rankings. It is difficult to surpass Kusatsu in terms of quality and quantity of its waters.
Kusatsu waters can be enjoyed in the city’s public ryokan and Japanese-style bathing facilities.
The most prominent public toilets are Sainokawara Rotemburo (large open-air swimming pools in Sainokawara Park), Otakinoyu with its unique Awaseyu baths which feature several wooden pools with varying water temperatures and Gozanoyu , a beautiful wooden building nearby. Yubatake with two simple and traditional bathing facilities.
In addition to these three large public toilets, there are more than a dozen small communal toilets scattered around the city that can be used for free by both local residents and tourists.
They tend to have small gender-separated pools that typically accommodate 2 to 4 people and are filled with very hot water.
Certainly the waters of Kusatsu can also be enjoyed at Japanese-style inns throughout the city.
While accommodation guests can use the bath facilities for free during their stay, some ryokan also open their daytime onsen areas to those who are not staying for a fee ranging from 500 to 1,500 yen.
Finally, there are some ashiyu areas found in the city that can be used for free by tourists. One is near Yubatake, while another can be found outside the bus terminal area.
An attraction related to hot springs in Kusatsu includes Yumomi, a traditional method of cooling the thermal water to bath temperature that includes dancing and singing. Performances are held daily and can be viewed at Netsunoyu.
Volcanic Activity Update (December 1, 2019)
Due to the high risk of volcanic activity, two non-entry zones are maintained around the Mount Shirane peaks. The road leading up the hill passes through the blocked zone. The road is currently inaccessible due to winter closure until April 24, 2020.
Outside the winter closing season, it is accessible for cars during the day but not allowed to park. Bus services to Mount Shirane from Kusatsu and Manza are suspended. Yugama Crater cannot be seen.
The Mount Shirane (Shirane-san), often called the Kusatsu-Shirane to differentiate it from other mountains Shirane called, is a series of volcanic peaks outside the area of Kusatsu Onsen. The place is a popular outdoor leisure area offering spring and summer hiking, beautiful fall scenery and winter skiing.
Yubatake (Hot Water Field)
The hot water field, Kusatsu symbol
The Yubatake is Kusatsu symbol and one of the main hot springs of the city. In fact, with a production of 5,000 liters per minute, Yubatake is among Japan’s most productive hot springs.
After bubbling on the surface at a temperature of over 70 degrees Celsius and with a mild sulfur odor, the thermal water is cooled in the Yubatake wood ducts a few degrees before being distributed to the various public inns and bathing facilities.
Many ryokan and shops are clustered in Yubatake and there is a steady flow of visitors, many of whom wear yukata and geta (traditional sandals) at night when the place is lit. There is also a free foot bath area that can be used.
Park with hot water streams and lakes
The Sainokawara Park covers a valley not far from the center of Kusatsu, where several hot springs and a large area of immersion outdoors are located. Walking trails around the top of the park pass through the beautiful natural landscapes.
The park’s other main attraction is Sainokawara Rotemburo, made up of two large, gender-separated outdoor pools with a capacity of 100 people each.
Traditional way to cool thermal water
Yumomi is the secular method employed to cool Kusatsu hot springs to bath temperatures without diluting them with cold water that can attenuate their special qualities.
Yumomi performances are held daily at the Netsunoyu building next to Yubatake. They last about 30 minutes and allow some visitors to participate in the process.
There are 6 presentations per day. The first happens at 9:30 and the last at 16:30. The ticket price is ¥ 600.
Kusatsu Kokusai Ski Resort
A relatively small ski resort above the tourist town
The Kusatsu Kokusai Ski Resort is on the slopes of Mount Shirane above the resort town of Kusatsu Onsen. The resort is not far from Kusatsu’s famous hot spring bathing areas.
Following an unexpected volcanic eruption in January 2018, the top of the ski resort, including its main ski lift, had to be closed, but the resort continues to offer several lifts and operates at its bottom. In summer, the resort offers various outdoor activities, such as mini golf.
For more information: kusatsu-onsen
Based on the site Japan Guide