Ways to Enjoy Kusatsu Onsen, a Popular Winter Resort for Sightseeing, Gourmet, and Skiing
Kusatsu Onsen is one of Japan’s three famous hot springs. With hiking and golf in the summer, as well as skiing and snowboarding in the winter, this is a terrific sightseeing location that’s popular with all generations. Read on to learn about Kusatsu Onsen's many highlights!
About Kusatsu Onsen
Kusatsu Onsen, located in the northwest of Gunma Prefecture, is a popular onsen (hot spring) area that boasts the largest output of natural hot spring water in Japan. Bathing in the waters here is considered to be effective in treating a range of aches, pains, and ailments. Its fresh and pleasant climate makes it a go-to summer retreat in the warmer months, and good snowfall in autumn and winter draws visitors for skiing and snowboarding.
There are two ways you can get to Kusatsu Onsen from the Tokyo area. You can take the JR Express Kusatsu from Ueno Station to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station, then transfer to the JR Bus Kanto to Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal. This route will take around 3 hours 10 minutes, and cost from 5,000 - 7,000 JPY. If you prefer, you can also take a highway bus from stops like Shinjuku and Shibuya in Tokyo. This option will take around 4 hours and cost around 3,000 JPY.
Located in the center of the hot spring town, Yubatake is a symbol of Kusatsu Onsen. 4,000 liters of hot water flows every minute from this iconic hot spring source. A cloud of steam constantly covers the area, and you'll notice a smell of sulfur and minerals in the air. The constant flow of the hot spring water down the hot water fall that resembles a giant playground slide creates a very impressive sight. Yubatake is illuminated from sunset until midnight each evening, giving the area a magical atmosphere that's quite different from how it appears during the day.
2. Sainokawara Street
Sainokawara Street connects Kusatsu Onsen’s two biggest sightseeing spots, Yubatake and Sainokawara Park. This narrow street is lined with souvenir shops and eateries, and is constantly bustling with sightseers. There are many establishments selling foods, including stores specializing in the famous local foods, manju (dumplings) and soft boiled eggs cooked in the hot spring water, as well as classics like senbei (Japanese rice crackers) and soft serve ice cream, so you can grab a treat to go as you tour the town's hot springs. Yukata rentals are also available at the Gozanoyu, a bathhouse located by Yubatake, and we highly recommend renting a yukata for your stroll around town!
At over 50 degrees Celsius, waters directly from Kusatsu Onsen's source is too hot to bathe in as-is. Yumomi is the name for a process devised to lower the temperature of the water without diluting its effects by adding cold water. Mixing the hot water with a 1.8m long plank lowers the temperature of the water and softens it as well.
You can see the yumomi process and even try it yourself at the Netsunoyu bath house. Stirring the water with such a heavy plank in the steam is pretty intense, but it's a valuable cultural experience that's unique to Kusatsu, so you should definitely give it a try.
4. Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort
Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort has been in business for over 100 years, and is known for having the first ever ski lift in Japan. Everyone from beginners right through to experts can enjoy the five slopes available here, and there are plenty of easy courses that even children and first-timers can relax and have fun on. This ski resort also offers a rental service, so you can come empty handed and still enjoy a ski session. A free shuttle bus from the Kusatsu Onsen town center is available, so you can head right on over whenever the mood strikes you!
Standing on high ground overlooking Yubatake, Kosenji is a historical temple said to have been built in 721 AD. Around 1,200 candles are placed from the main gate of the temple to the stone steps during the candle events held here on weekends, illuminating the Yubatake area in its steamy haze with a gentle light. The view here is also magically beautiful when covered in snow in the winter.
Opening hours: 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm / 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm (Hours change seasonally)
6. Sainokawara Park
Sainokawara Park is located at the end of Sainokawara Street. The hot spring sources throughout the park grounds create streams of warm water that fill this whole area with a cloud of steam. In the heart of the park is one of Japan’s largest outdoor hot springs. Here visitors can enjoy taking a bath while taking in the stunning natural views. Evening light-up displays envelop the entire park in a romantic atmosphere that's quite different from the mood during the day.
Kusatsu Onsen is a charming sightseeing area full of things to see and do all year around. You’re sure to be captivated by this area's wonderful atmosphere, so don't miss it when you're next in Japan!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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