Gunma Prefecture means hot springs: in the following article we’ll talk about Kusatsu Onsen, representing the spa towns of this area and of all Japan.
What’s special about Kusatsu Onsen?
Kusatsu Onsen is a spa town grown around its underground hot spring activity, given by the influence of a close volcano Mt. Asama. This lovely city, located 1200 m above the sea level, is rich in ancient thermal guest houses and ryokans, together with several souvenir shops. It’s symbol is the so-called yubatake, a big central square where the water springs and then flows into a big artificial waterfall. From here, all the guest houses and spa centers start, while the waterfall is accessible too.
Kusatsu Onsen’s water has a high level of acidity, with a average pH level of 2.05 and a temperature of 44.9 degrees celcius. This water is classified as “acid hypotonic thermal water”.
With a 15 minutes walk from the yubatake you can reach the Sai-no-Kawara area, a full-nature environment with a footpath where you can behold the water springing. This is a must-see spot when visiting Kusatsu.
There are many wonderful hotels and places to stay here, we suggest you to spend at least one night in town, also to enjoy the astonishing view of the yubatake enlightened at night. It’s beauty doesn’t stop attracting visitors even during the coldest weeks.
How to get there
Click here to know the easiest ways to reach Kusatsu Onsen.
We visited Kusatsu Onsen in November, enjoying the wonderful autumn colors from our car during the journey.
We found the temperature to be colder than we expected! Kusatsu Onsen ins not only located more than 1000 m on the sea level, but is is also touched by the freezing currents of the ocean and the Sea of Japan.
Anyway, as soon as we got closer to the yubatake, we could feel some warmth just by looking at the rising steam. We took some pictures and then had a warm tempura in a small restaurant nearby. Walking towards Sai-no-Kawara we soaked our feet in the cozy ashiyu.
Kusatsu is great at night too: we were lucky enough to see the steep stair of the Kōzan-ji Temple (facing on the yubatake) enlightened by many candles. Some were off, but that was meant to create the shape of the local mascot, Yumomi-chan, easily recognizable from a few meters back.
The buildings’ light-up was so well made that we decided to challenge the freezing air to take more pictures.
The following day we attended the traditional “Yumomi” ritual, were some women (called the Yumomi girls) soak some wooden boards into the hot water to cool it down. The show has got so popular that we had to buy a ticket and wait in a long queue to assist. We suggest you to buy the ticket in advance to save some time.
Kusatsu Onsesn doesn’t only offer thermal baths, it is home also to some splendid views on the crater lake of Mt. Shirane and Lake Nozori. We didn’t have enough time to see these places, visit them if you have the chance!