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Kusatsu Onsen Guide: Hot Springs, Things To Do, And Access From Tokyo

Kusatsu Onsen Guide: Hot Springs, Things To Do, And Access From Tokyo

Translated by Jasmine Nishino

Written by Mami Wakamatsu

Gunma 2019.06.14 Bookmark

Kusatsu Onsen is a hot spring resort in Gunma, accessible in around three to four hours from Tokyo. It is ranked as one of the top three hot springs in Japan due to its high water quality and history. Learn more about the natural hot springs, food, souvenirs, and where to stay here.

Traveling in Kusatsu Onsen

Kusatsu Onsen is a hot spring district in Gunma Prefecture, located about three to four hours by bus from Tokyo. The amount of natural hot spring water flowing at Kusatsu Onsen is the most in Japan. (*1) Kusatsu is known for its high quality, free-flowing springs that are thought to warm the body and help kill bacteria.

Kusatsu Onsen

There are many restaurants and eateries in Kusatsu Onsen, making the area lively even at night. Hot springs flow from the waterfall-like Yubatake (pictured above) in the town center, where visitors can see the large amounts of steam rising.

In addition to Yubatake, there are five other spring sources: Shirahata, Bandaiko, Sainokawara, Nigawa, and Jizo.

The spring quality differs depending on its source. For example, water from Yubatake is gentle on the skin, while the water from Shirahata is cloudy. Therefore, it is recommended to go hot spring hopping to experience the different water.

Kusatsu has a hot spring cooling method called yumomi, which you can watch or even try for yourself. With so much to do, the town is almost like a hot spring theme park.

This article introduces highlights, food, and accommodations in Kusatsu Onsen needed for a great trip.

*1 Natural hot spring water is naturally heated spring water that rises to the surface from the ground. It is said to have the highest quality of water suitable for bathing.

Contents:

1. Getting to Kusatsu Onsen

Things to do at Kusatsu Onsen

Kusatsu Onsen is easy to access from Tokyo. You can get there in about four hours via express bus. It is also easy to reach as a side trip from the popular summer retreat, Karuizawa in Nagano, as it is only around an hour and twenty minutes away by bus.

From Tokyo Station and Shinjuku Station - 4 Hours

If you take an express bus from Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station, you can go directly to the Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal. It costs around 3,000 to 4,000 yen and takes around four hours from either station.

From Shinjuku Station, you can board from Shinjuku Bus Terminal. If you use Tokyo Station, be aware there are multiple bus stops, so be sure to check before boarding your bus.

From Karuizawa Station - One Hour, 20 Minutes

You can take the local bus operated by Kusatsu Kotsu from Karuizawa Station to Kusatsu Onsen. It costs 2,200 yen and takes around an hour and twenty minutes. You can check the time table here.

2. Highlights of Kusatsu Onsen

Yubatake: The Symbol of Kusatsu Onsen

Things to do at Kusatsu Onsen

Picture courtesy of Kusatsu Tourism Association

The steam rising from Yubatake, only five minutes by foot from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal, will welcome you when you first get to Kusatsu Onsen. This is the first place many people visit.

Kusatsu Onsen

Yubatake was created in order to cool down the piping hot springs and to collect yunohana (*2). The natural hot spring flows through the wooden gutter, and then flows out like a waterfall. This allows many facilities here to use the free-flowing hot springs in their natural state.

Kusatsu Onsen

Yubatake is also a popular spot in Kusatsu for photos. At night, it is beautifully lit up, and the many souvenir shops and eateries close by make it fun for exploring.

*2 yunohana: Minerals in the hot spring that solidified and sank to the bottom. Yunohara is sometimes sold as bath additives.

Yubatake:
Address: Gunma, Agatsuma, Kusatsu Google Map
Access: 5 minutes from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal
Official Website: Kusatsu Onsen (Japanese)

Netsunoyu, Yumomi, and a Dance Show

Things to do at Kusatsu Onsen

Picture courtesy of Kusatsu Tourism Association

At Netsunoyu, you can see a traditional yumomi dance show performed daily.

Yumomi is a technique where you mix the piping hot water with a wooden board to cool it. It is also said to give the water a gentle feel and has been practiced since the Edo period. It was also a form of exercise before bathing.

During the show, you can see women in yukata singing the Kusatsu-bushi song, "Kusatsu yoi toko ichido wa oide" (Kusatsu is a great place you have to visit at least once), while they stir the hot waters with the board rhythmically. The audience is limited, but you may be able to see yumomi performed here.

The Yumomi and Dance Show is held six times a day at 9:30, 10:00, 10:30, 15:30, 16:00, and 16:30. It costs 600 yen for adults and reservations are not needed.

Netsunoyu
Address: Gunma, Agatsuma, Kusatsu 414 Google Map
Access: 5-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal
Official Website: Netsunoyu (Japanese)

Try a Hot Spring Foot Bath at Yukemuri-tei

Kusatsu Onsen

Picture from The Beauty Of Kusatsu Onsen In Winter: Snowflakes And Hot Springs

Yukemuri-tei is a foot bath right next to the Yubatake. The baths are made azumaya-style (*3), out of hinoki cypress. It is modeled after Matsunoyu, a public bath that used to be here during the Edo period. The hot water flows naturally from the hot spring sources.

There is another foot bath in front of Jizo no Yu a hot spring facility, located around three minutes on foot from the Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal. It is a perfect place to relax your feet after you get to Kusatsu, or as a quick stop after exploring the shops around the Yubatake area.

All foot baths are open 24 hours and can be used free of charge.

*Azumaya: A hut with no walls and only made with pillars and roof. Frequently used as a rest stop.
Yukemuri-tei
Address: Gunma, Agatsuma, Kusatsu Google Map
Access: 5-minute walk from Kusatsu Bus Terminal
Official Website: Yukemuri-tei (Japanese)

3. Enjoy Hot Springs on a Day Trip

Sainokawara Open-air Bath

Kusatsu Onsen

Picture courtesy of Kusatsu Tourism Association

Sainokawara Park is about a twenty minute-walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal and the Yubatake. Surrounded by volcanic rocks, streams, and lakes filled with hot springs, the park contains the largest open-air bath in Kusatsu Onsen. Here you can enjoy relaxing, bathing, and the outdoors of Kusatsu.

Kusatsu Onsen

Picture courtesy of Tourist Guide of Gunma Prefecture

You will pass through much of Sainokawara Park on the way to the open-air bath, so enjoy the splendid scenery along the way.

Sainokawara Open-Air Bath
Address: Gunma, Agatsuma, Kusatsu 521-3 Google Map
Access: 20-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal
Official Website: Sainokawara Rotenburo

Otaki no Yu

Otaki no Yu

Picture courtesy of Otaki no Yu

Otaki no Yu is a facility with indoor, open-air, and private baths, a sauna, a lounge, cafe, and eateries.

One bathing method to try is awase-yu. It is a way of taking baths traditional in Kusatsu, where you bathe in multiple baths heated between 38 degrees to 46 degrees. This is done in order to allow your body to get used to the heat and minerals.

Private baths are also available, so this facility is recommended for those who wish to enjoy their time with their family, friends, or special someone.

Otaki no Yu

Picture courtesy of Otaki no Yu

Use the Santo Meguri Tegata coupon if you wish to visit multiple hot springs and save money. If you visit Sainokawara open-air bath, Goza no yu and Ohtaki no Yu, it will cost 2,100 yen normally. However, with the coupon, the fee will be discounted to 1,600 yen.

This discount coupon is sold at all three facilities, so purchase it when you get to the first facility.

Otaki no Yu
Address: Gunma, Agatsuma, Kusatsu 596-13 Google Map
Access: 9-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal
Official Website: Otaki no Yu

Shirahata no Yu

Things to do at Kusatsu Onsen

Picture courtesy of Kusatsu Tourism Association

Shirahata no Yu is a hot spring rated highly for its water quality. This is the only facility in Kusatsu Onsen with clouded water.

The wooden bath makes the experience all the more calming, adding a nostalgic feeling to the facility. There are baths with hot and luke-warm water, but both are quite hotter than average baths. You can bathe here for free!

However, please note that there are no lockers here to store personal belongings. It is advised to leave your valuables at your lodging.

Shirahata no Yu
Address: Gunma, Agatsuma, Kusatsu 112-1 Google Map
Access: 5-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal
Official Website: Shirahata no Yu (Japanese)

4. Must-Eat Kusatsu Hot Spring Cuisine

You can find many restaurants and souvenir shops near the Yubatake or Sainokawara Street (the road leading up to Sainokawara Park). Why not taste some yummy Kusatsu treats while shopping?

Snack and Stroll Around the Hot Springs

Onsen manju (*4) is a must-eat when visiting a hot spring village in Japan. Numerous shops that sell it at Kusatsu Onsen, including Matsumura Manju, which has been in operation since 1945. Flavors of the manju vary from shop to shop, so why not compare how they taste?

あげまんじゅう

For example, Yamabiko Onsen Manju, makes age-manju, or deep-fried onsen manju. It has a sesame coating, and the crispy outside is addictively delicious.

せんべい

Other delicacies include soft serve ice cream, senbei rice crackers, and a rich, creamy egg cooked in hot spring water.

焼き鳥屋

You can also find many shops selling yakitori (skewered chicken). Some shops are will even prepare it charcoal-grilled.

Enjoy all exploring all the delicious options Kusatsu Onsen has to offer!

*4 Onsen manju: Manju is a bun filled with red bean paste. Onsen manju has been steamed using hot springs. It can also refer to any manju sold in a hot springs area.

Mouth-Watering Local Cuisine: Brand-Name Joshu Wagyu Beef

Around the Yubatake area, there are many shops, cafes, Italian restaurants, izakaya bars, yakiniku barbecue, udon, and soba.

Things to do at Kusatsu Onsen

Picture courtesy of Tourist Guide of Gunma Prefecture

One must-eat is Joshu wagyu beef, a Gunma-produced beef. The cows are raised in the lush, green fields of Gunma which receive plenty of clean mineral water, allowing the meat to become soft and tender.

Shitatsuzumi is a yakiniku barbecue restaurant operated by a butcher. They get their meat by purchasing the entire cow, provide various parts of the luscious beef for a reasonable price. The flavor is worth trying.

5. Souvenir Shopping at Kusatsu Onsen

Things to do at Kusatsu Onsen

Picture courtesy of Yuagari Karinto

The karinto (*4) from Yuagari Karinto has a long shelf life and the packaging is very stylish and Japanese, making for a great souvenir. You can also try the Yuagari Joshu Beef Bun, which is made using Joshu Wagyu beef. This is a perfect treat to enjoy while walking around town.

Kusatsu Rusk

Picture courtesy of Kusatsu Rusk

The rusks from Grande Fiume Kusatsu are also very popular. Along with simple sugar and butter-flavored rusks, they have unique rusks with earl grey tea or garlic. It will make you want to try a variety of flavors. The gelato at this shop is also very popular. It even comes with a rusk, so it's a perfect opportunity to try both.

Other souvenirs include manju, senbei rice cakes, Gunma's specialty dried udon noodles, and Japanese crafts. There are also cosmetics that contain hot spring-made minerals that would make ideal gifts.

*4 Karinto: A traditional Japanese sweet made from a flour dough that has been fried.
Yuagari Karinto
Address: Gunma, Agatsuma, Kusatsu, Sensui 505 Google Map
Access: 7-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal
Official Website: Yuagari Karinto (Japanese)

Grande Fiume Kusatsu
Address: Gunma, Agatsuma, Kusatsu 594-4 Google Map
Access: 6-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal or Yubatake
Official Website: Grande Fiume Kusatsu (Japanese)

6. See the Light-up Displays at Night

One of the highlights of Kusatsu are the nighttime illuminations. The Yubatake and Sainokawara Park area gets lit up after sundown, creating a dreamy scenery that is very different from the day time.

Kusatsu Onsen

Picture courtesy of Kusatsu Tourism Association

Kosenji Temple, located right by the Yubatake, is particularly beautiful. From March to November on the second and fourth Saturday or holiday, is the Yume no Akari event, where 1,200 candles in clear cups create a masterpiece on the stone steps of the temple.

Kusatsu Onsen

Picture courtesy of Kusatsu Tourism Association

When Sainokawara Park is lit up, you can bathe in the open-air bath that gives off a romantic ambiance.

Kosenji Temple
Address: Gunma, Agatsuma, Kusatsu 446 Google Map
Access: 2-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal
Official Website: Kosenji Temple (Japanese)

7. Recommended Accommodations for Relaxing

Kusatsu Hotel

Kusatsu Onsen

Picture courtesy of Kusatsu Hotel

Kusatsu Hotel first opened its doors during the Taisho period as a western-style hotel. In 1952, it was renovated into a ryokan (Japanese-style inn). This is one of the six accommodations in Kusatsu Onsen that sources the hot spring from Sainokawara. The hotel has a stylish open-air bath and private baths where guests can experience a comfortable time.

Kusatsu Onsen

The structure is made of wood, and the rooms have a light, traditional feel. There are some rooms that have a Western-style bed. Meals are served in kaiseki-style as courses, and are made with seasonal, healthy ingredients.

During your stay at the hotel, you will also have access to a spa, beauty treatments, a foot bath, and a cafe.

Kusatsu Hotel
Address: Gunma, Agatsuma, Kusatsu 479 Google Map
Access: 10-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal
Official Website: Kusatsu Hotel

Kusatsu Onsen Boun

Things to do at Kusatsu

Picture courtesy of Boun

Boun is a historical hot springs ryokan that has been in operation since 1599. There are six baths that source its free-flowing waters from the Sainokawara and Bandaiko springs. You can enjoy the soothing waters, enjoy a peaceful moment, and take in the lush green surroundings.

草津の楽しみ方

Picture courtesy of Boun

The rooms are mostly Japanese-style, but there are a few western-style rooms with beds. Meals are authentic Japanese cuisine, made with local and seasonal ingredients, which you can enjoy in your room or a private room. There are also beauty salons and body treatment spas available.

Boun
Address: Gunma, Agatsuma, Kusatsu 433 Google Map
Access: 8-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal
Official Website: Kusatsu Onsen Boun

8. When To Visit Kusatsu Onsen

When to visit Kusatsu Onsen

Picture from The Beauty Of Kusatsu Onsen In Winter: Snowflakes And Hot Springs

The average temperature of Kusatsu is around 7-8 degrees lower than Tokyo. If you wish to enjoy the snowy scenery, visit in the winter. If you want to escape the city heat, the summer is ideal.

Between March and April, the average temperature is around 3-9 degrees, so a winter jacket is needed. It is also advised to have a jacket even during early summer. The summer temperatures are very temperate, with the hottest days reaching around just around 20 degrees. However, it can get cold at night, so we recommend bringing a light jacket or something to wear on top to avoid the cold.

After September, the average temperature drops to about 15 degrees. Between December to March, it can get to below zero. Bundle up with scarves, down jacket, hats, and gloves. Kusatsu also receives heavy snowfall. Make sure to have shoes that suitable for walking the snowy roads.

Visit Kusatsu Onsen

Things to Do at Kusatsu Onsen

Picture courtesy of Kusatsu Tourism Association

Kusatsu is a wonderful spot where you can enjoy high-quality hot springs, ryokan, delicious food, and a beautiful nighttime view. In addition to Kusatsu, Gunma Prefecture is also known for the World Heritage Site-designated Tomioka Silk Mill, and Minakami, a destination great for rafting. Both are fun places to see while visiting Kusatsu.

Use this article as a reference for a pleasant and memorable time at a traditional hot spring town in Japan!

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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