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Kusatsu Onsen Beyond Hot Springs: 2-Day Gourmet and Ski Adventure

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Discover the wonders of Kusatsu Onsen, one of Japan's three famous hot springs! Immerse yourself in a two-day adventure featuring a stay at a traditional inn, delectable local cuisine, and exhilarating skiing. Delve into the essence of Japan's hot spring culture in Kusatsu!

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Kusatsu Onsen in Winter

Kusatsu Onsen Beyond Hot Springs: 2-Day Gourmet and Ski Adventure

Photo by Pixta
Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma is a famous hot spring town with a high reputation in Japan. Few people know, though, that Kusatsu has an excellent ski resort!

Read on for a recommended two-day trip to Kusatsu Onsen that lets you make the most of the delicious local cuisine, hot springs, and ski facilities.

How to Get to Kusatsu Onsen

We used the JR Tokyo Wide Pass. It only costs 15,000 yen and allows unlimited travel on the Shinkansen and JR lines within the designated area for three consecutive days. It's a very cost-effective transportation ticket.

First, take the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Takasaki Station, then transfer to the JR Agatsuma Line to Naganohara Kusatsuguchi Station (about two and a half hours), and then transfer to the bus heading to Kusatsu Onsen after exiting the station. (The bus fare is not included in the JR Pass; it costs an additional 700 yen). It takes about half an hour by bus to reach Kusatsu Onsen.

Before departure, remember to confirm whether the hotel you booked provides a shuttle service, so as not to waste the transfer bus fee.

For detailed transportation methods, you can also refer to the following article. You can also travel from JR Ueno Station to Kusatsu Onsen, or take the direct highway bus from the Shinjuku Bus Terminal.

Day One: Explore Kusatsu Onsen and Try the Local Delights

Kusatsu Onsen Beyond Hot Springs: 2-Day Gourmet and Ski Adventure

Photo by Pixta
The town of Kusatsu Onsen extends outwards from Yubatake (the "hot spring fields"), where many shops selling sundries, alcohol, snacks, and restaurants are gathered.

Speaking of Yubatake, it was built to obtain the minerals in the hot springs - Yunohana and to adjust the temperature of the hot spring water. The Yubatake field gushes out about 4,000 liters of hot spring water every minute! The water is delivered to local inns and hotels through seven wooden water pipes. If you come to Kusatsu, taking photos at this remarkable location is a must!

The following three eateries and shops offer exquisite treats and we highly recommend them for when you visit the center of Kusatsu Onsen.

1. Terakoya Honpo Kusatsu Onsen Store

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Terakoya Honpo specializes in grilled skewered senbei (rice crackers), a unique delicacy.

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The grilled skewered senbei crackers come in various flavors (soy sauce, mayonnaise, black pepper, etc.). The moist and chewy texture is addictive and just as filling as a meat snack!

2. Chojuten: Hot Spring Manju (Buns)

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Have you ever tried manju, the hot spring steamed buns with thin skin and thick bean paste filling? If not, you must come to Chojuten to try their Japanese-style steamed buns!

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This steamed bun shop offers manju with red bean, chestnut, and green bean fillings. It provides steamed and hot steamed buns, as well as hot tea for everyone to try for free. We saw many customers taking several boxes with them as souvenirs after trying them on the spot.

3. Kusatsu Onsen Yuagari Karinto

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Yuagari Karinto specializes in karinto, sweet crackers flavored with fragrant black sugar. The karinto snacks are truly exquisite, crispy, and delicious.

However, what we would like to recommend is their beef buns (nikuman).

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The beef filling is plump and juicy. When you bite into them, the aromatic meat juice overflows in your mouth. The buns are served piping hot - it's a treat that will warm up your body and heart in the cold winter!

After taking a stroll and tasting various local treats, head to the Yukimi open-air hot springs to soothe your fatigue from the journey.

Sainokawara Park: Open-Air Hot Spring Surrounded by Snow Scenery

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Sainokawara Park is located in the western part of Kusatsu Onsen and is a specially designated area of ​​the Joshin'etsu Kogen National Park.

Hot spring water is constantly gushing out in this park, and the water vapor shrouds the surroundings like smoke. Combined with the snowy scenery, the hot springs create a surreal sight!

You may notice a particular smell in this area. The hot springs of Kusatsu Onsen are acidic sulfur springs that are said to be effective in alleviating various diseases.

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The open-air hot spring bath in the park is very famous and is enjoyed by an endless stream of people every day.

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The place depicted in the picture, with water vapor swirling around and beautiful scenery all around, is the Sainokawara Park Open-Air Hot Spring. In this natural hot spring pool, which covers an area of over 500 square meters, when you gaze into the distance, you'll see a pristine white landscape of distant mountains, and all around, there is complete silence.

Enjoying a hot bath while admiring the snowfall here is a winter-exclusive pleasure!

You might as well use Google Street View to take a look at the superb hot spring pool of Sainokawara Open-Air Hot Spring. After taking a dip, it’s time to check in at the hotel where you’re staying for the night.

Nagataya: Nostalgic Japanese Inn Ideal for Family Trips

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In Kusatsu Onsen, you'll find a variety of hot spring accommodations, ranging from high-end hotels and Japanese inns to budget-friendly hostels. The options are truly dizzying!

During our trip, we stayed at Nagataya, a charming Japanese inn located in a renovated traditional house.

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The interior decorations exude a nostalgic Showa-era (1926-1989) style while still offering modern amenities and conveniences. Compared to regular hotels, it has a unique and distinct ambiance.

The Japanese-style wooden corridor adorned with vintage light bulbs always entices guests to capture more photos as a tribute to times gone by.

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The hotel also features an array of antique toys and game consoles for guests of all ages to enjoy. There's even a dedicated game area, perfect for families looking to experience authentic Japanese folk customs during their travels.

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The hotel rooms have traditional Japanese tatami mat flooring. Although they're relatively affordable and have a simplistic style, you'll need to make your own bed before settling in for the night.

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Moreover, the hotel has a bathing facility with natural hot springs, allowing guests to enjoy the healing waters without stepping foot outside.

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The Japanese breakfast served at the hotel is wonderfully generous and delicious, with free refills of coffee to ensure guests are energized for their day of sightseeing.

With its simple yet charming folk-style ambiance, Nagataya offers excellent value for money. The retro decor and comfortable rooms come at a reasonable price, allowing you to enjoy a restful night in Kusatsu.

The reception staff can speak English and will be happy to assist you during your stay if you need anything. As a heartwarming gesture, the Nagataya staff even provided us with transportation to the ski slopes in Kusatsu Onsen after checking out. It was truly a touching experience!

Day Two: Winter Fun at Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort

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Apart from enjoying the hot springs, one of the things that one should definitely try on a winter trip to Kusatsu Onsen is skiing!

Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort, located on Mount Tengu, offers stunning scenery and a wide variety of ski trails catering to beginners, intermediates, and advanced skiers. Another advantage is that many of the staff members can speak English!

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If you're a beginner and don't know how to ski, fret not! Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort offers ski lessons and equipment rental services. You can easily rent everything you need, including skis or snowboards and warm clothing, ensuring you have the right gear for an enjoyable experience.

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Moreover, the ski resort boasts several on-site restaurants and cafes. So, if you ever feel tired from skiing, you can replenish your energy at these dining establishments.

Enjoy Kusatsu Onsen in Winter!

If you're looking for a two-day trip filled with relaxation at the hot springs, gourmet dining, and skiing, we highly recommend a winter trip to Kusatsu Onsen.

Indulge in the delicious local cuisine, experience the bliss of open-air hot baths, and spend the night at a traditional Japanese inn for an authentic experience. After satisfying your appetite and rejuvenating in the hot springs, make your way to the ski slopes on the second day for some thrilling skiing or snowboarding.

Keep in mind that the Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort is only open until March 31, so take advantage of this chance to enjoy a romantic hot spring and skiing adventure this winter.

Main image by Pixta

Written by

台北出身。嗜好是攝影・咖啡・旅行。 以東京為起點,目標制霸全日本旅遊地圖。

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