Kusatsu

The enchanting onsen resort in Gunma

Kusatsu is a small onsen resort in Gunma prefecture, north-west of Tokyo. The steaming Yubatake, literally "hot water field", located in its center, is the symbol of the city. Many Japanese people, and especially Tokyoites, come to Kusatsu to enjoy the heat of the numerous onsen baths and spend a relaxing weekend.

Surrounded by mountains, Kusatsu benefits from Mount Kusatsu-Shirane’s hot springs, located a few kilometers away from its center. Kusatsu’s main activity and interest is thus the onsen resort. The city is quite small, and it takes at most 10 minutes’ walk to reach any place of interest.

The day and night show of Yubatake

The steaming hot water is brought by wooden canals from the heart of the mountain to a large outdoor cooling facility. The whole system is called Yubatake and truly resembles a "hot water field". The perfect parallelism of the wooden canals fascinates visitors, who stroll along the fences or try one of the two ashiyu, the foot baths, containing water from the same hot spring.

The hot waterfall, the Japanese lanterns Yutaki and the wooden structures give a natural charm to the place. Quite crowded in the daytime, Yubatake at night offers fairytale like and peaceful nightly landscapes, with the steam rising in the dark and a very beautiful highlight of the structure.

Temples and restaurants in downtown Kusatsu

Yubatake is the center of the town, and the starting point to the paths for most attractions. Just in front of the "hot water field" stands the Netsunoyu building where the Yumomi ceremonial, typical of Kusatsu, is performed every day. This show is a must-see for first time travelers in Kusatsu, as they can watch the traditional manual cooling of the hot spring waters. In a more secluded place a little bit further south, a long stone stairway leads to the Kosenji, Kusatsu’s temple. In the opposite direction, towards north, Shirane Jinja Shrine and its surroundings offer a nice walk in the upper parts of the city.

All these places are small size facilities, located quite close to each other, and the walk between them is pleasant, even in snowy period, as the paths are always clean and clearly identified. A couple of shopping streets start from Yubatake. Numerous small eateries serve Japanese traditional pastries, tea and skewered grilled fish. Some good soba noodle restaurants can also be found in these streets, like Matsumi, with its delicious duck noodles, in a peaceful and pleasant setting. On the other hand, Yakiniku Azuma is a good restaurant for grilled meat and fresh beer amateurs after a bath.

Kusatsu’s public onsen

Kusatsu City manages several bath houses. The smallest ones have only one bath (men and women separated), but their entrance is free, which contributes to the uniqueness of Kusatsu. It makes it easy to try several onsen and enjoy many atmospheres:

  • We particularly appreciated Shirohatanoyu, whose wooden bath is located under a high tower, giving a cathedral-like feeling amidst rising steam.
  • Jizonoyu is a must-try for every hot bath amateur. There is also an ashiyu foot bath at the entrance.
  • Gozanoyu, is one of the three biggest public onsen, and is a beautiful wooden modern building.
  • Otakinoyu, located a bit off to the east, is characterized by a huge wooden room, with a series of underground baths of various temperatures.
  • Finally, Sainokawara Park, a bit off to the west, provides open air hot baths in an invigorating forest setting.

Most of the hotels and ryokan inn also have their own onsen. Winter is the touristic peak season in Kusatsu, so the prices of the accommodations rise accordingly. However, as the city is quite small, most of them are in a convenient location, not very far from the Yubatake and the bus station.

Mount Shirane also houses a skiing area called Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort.

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Further down this page, discover our visit guide in Kusatsu and around.

Kusatsu photo gallery

  • Kusatsu Onsen, Yubatake Hot water field
  • Kusatsu (Gunma Prefecture), Bus Station
  • Kusatsu Onsen, Downtown
  • Kusatsu Onsen, Gozanoyu public bath
  • Kusatsu Onsen, Yubatake Hot water field 2
  • Kusatsu Onsen, Natural hot water spring
  • Kusatsu Onsen, Shops
  • Kusatsu Onsen, Downtown 2
  • Kusatsu Onsen, Hot bath in Shirohatanoyu
  • Kusatsu Onsen, Yubatake Hot water field at night
  • Kusatsu Onsen, Downtown at night
  • Kusatsu Onsen, Yubatake Hot water field at night 2
  • Kusatsu Onsen, Yubatake Hot water field at night 3
  • Kusatsu Onsen, Yubatake Hot water field at night 4

Information

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How to get to Kusatsu

From Ueno JR Station:

  1. ~1h30 by Limited Express train to Nagano-Hara-Kusatsu-Guchi Station (¥5,370 / ~US$ 49.00 or free with the Japan Rail Pass, the only direct train, but less frequent)
  2. ~25 minutes by local bus to Kusatsu Onsen, frequent departures during the day (¥710 / ~US$ 6.50 or free with the Japan Rail Pass)

or ~4 hours by JR Kanto bus from Shinjuku (¥3,800¥ / ~US$ 34.70)

Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 281)

Admission

Shirohatanoyu and Jizonoyu baths: free

Get your Japanese Yens free of charge

Opening hours

Shirohatanoyu and Jizonoyu baths: open every day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

How long / when to visit

Allow one to two days

Best season in winter

In Japanese

草津温泉 (Kusatsu Onsen)

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Resources

Official Website (in English)

Things to do in Kusatsu

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Day trips from Kusatsu (Kanto)