Written by Ramona (GREATERTOKYO_Explorer)
Exploring Kusatsu Onsen: Stylish Cafes, Great Scenery, And Souvenirs
Kusatsu Onsen offers not only excellent hot springs but also great nature scenery and tasty local treats. Spend your second day in Kusatsu exploring the town: Kosenji Temple, the impressive Sainokawara Park, the charming shopping streets, and the local cozy cafes.
Kusatsu Onsen - Beautiful Nature, Great Local Treats, and Charming Cafes
Kusatsu Onsen is best-known as a hot spring resort, but the town has no shortage of beautiful scenery, excellent cuisine, and stylish cafes, which enhance its charm.
To fully enjoy your stay in this vibrant onsen town, we suggest coming on a two-day trip. This previous article introduces tips for the first day in Kusatsu Onsen.
Continue reading to find out about the wonderful places we explored on the second day. These include Kosenji Temple, the beautiful Sainokawara Park, and lovely dining places.
8:00 - 9:00 -- Breakfast at the Ryokan
If you stayed overnight at a ryokan in Kusatsu Onsen, then you'll have breakfast at your accommodation facility.
The photo above shows the breakfast at Mukashigokoro no Yado Kanemidori, an elegant ryokan located close to the town center.
The breakfast menu changes every month so that the guests can enjoy seasonal flavors. The dishes are both nutritious and tasty, made according to the principles of refined Japanese cuisine.
After checking out, how about starting your exploration of Kusatsu Onsen from the town center?
10:10 - 10:40 -- Visiting Kosenji Temple
You may have noticed these stairs near the Yubatake area the day before. They lead to Kosenji, the famous temple of Kusatsu Onsen.
First built at the beginning of the 13th century on the grounds of an ancient shrine, Kosenji enshrines Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of healing.
The temple grounds, surrounded in greenery, are gorgeous year-round. You'll discover Buddhist statues guarding the alleys and several smaller halls.
11:00 - 11:45 -- Sainokawara Park - Nature Scenery Modelled by Hot Springs
It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to walk from the Yubatake area to Sainokawara Park. You'll walk along vibrant streets lined with souvenir shops and dining places. We suggest visiting the park first and taking your time afterward to explore some of these establishments.
Sainokawara Park is a public park featuring the hot springs Kusatsu is famous for. There are several ashiyu (foot bath) spots that can be used by anyone for free, as well as an open-air hot spring facility where you can actually enjoy a hot spring bath (adults 600 yen, children 300 yen).
The river in this park is a hot spring river. Its bluish-greenish hues are due to the minerals in the hot springs.
There is a charming Inari shrine in the park, as well as a visitor center with exhibitions related to the history and nature of Kusatsu Onsen.
11:45 - 12:30 -- Stroll along the Sainokawara-dori Street
Sainokawara-dori is the best place to look for souvenirs. Glass art and kitchenware, wooden handicrafts, kimono wear and accessories––these are just some of the local crafts that are ideal as mementos from Kusatsu Onsen.
There are several stores selling edible souvenirs, too, such as local confectionery or pickles. It's fun to look around in search of the perfect gift for a friend or a keepsake from your trip.
12:30 - 13:30 -- Lunch at Yumehana: Delicious Tendon
For lunch, we recommend Yumehana, a dining place located right across the bus terminal. They offer soba and noodle dishes, as well as tendon rice bowls and meat dishes.
We ordered the Tendon set meal (1,020 yen), which consists of a bowl of rice topped with a generous quantity of tempura and miso soup. This dish is a great choice for those who want to recharge for some more sightseeing in Kusatsu.
Yumehana is also famous for their original confections, which are ideal as sweet gifts. We especially recommend the set called Kusatsu Onsen Koyuki-chan consisting of five tarts in various flavors (strawberry, green tea, coffee, golden leaf heart, and chocolate heart). They look irresistible and taste fantastic!
13:45 - 14:30 -- Sweet Souvenirs from Honke Chichiya
The iconic traditional souvenir from Kusatsu Onsen is onsen manju, a steamed bun filled with anko red bean paste. Honke Chichiya is an established maker specialized in onsen manju.
The main store of Honke Chichiya is located close to the bus terminal. It has a small eat-in corner for those who wish to taste the onsen manju on the spot.
The onsen manju made by Honke Chichiya are incredibly soft and light. Both the regular flavor and the black sugar flavor taste great, especially when served with tea.
The onsen manju buns are good for two or three days after purchase. If you prefer something with a longer shelf life, then take a look at other products offered by Honke Chichiya. They recently released an original type of Baumkuchen.
14:45 - 15:45 -- Take a Break at Tea Room Yuki Usagi
Before leaving Kusatsu Onsen, drop by Tea Room Yuki Usagi, a lovely cafe where you can spend a few quiet moments and recollect what you've seen and enjoyed in this town.
The cafe is spacious, with a cozy, wooden interior that's tastefully decorated. It functions as a cafe and an interior goods and accessories shop.
The products on sale are all handmade items carefully selected by the owner. You can find fashion items, accessories, as well as cute and practical kitchenware.
From the cafe menu of Yuki Usagi, we especially recommend their Original Milk Tea (680 yen). The beverage comes in a pot. It has a thick consistency and an incredibly delicious, deep flavor resulted from brewing three times the regular quantity of tea leaves.
For dessert, the castella and scone set (630 yen) is a great choice. These confectioneries, extremely soft and light, are entirely homemade. Tea time at Yuki Usagi is a real bliss!
16:00 - 20:05 -- Back to Tokyo
If you take the bus departing at 16:00 from the Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal, you'll reach the Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal in Tokyo at around 20:05. Please refer to this official website for details on departure hours.
Do Visit Kusatsu Onsen Again!
Once you come to Kusatsu Onsen, you'll agree that it is a lovely destination, one that you just have to revisit. It offers the best of Japan's hot spring culture along with unique local entertainment.
Moreover, the great news is that it is a wonderful destination in every season! In the summer, the weather in Kusatsu tends to be about 7 degrees Celsius cooler (*the average temperature in August is 19.5 Celsius degrees), while in winter, the snowy scenery is breathtakingly beautiful.
For other great places to visit in Kusatsu Onsen, please visit this page: https://www.kusatsu-onsen.ne.jp/guide/en/
Breakfast at the ryokan → Kosenji Temple → Sainokawara Park → Sainokawara-dori Street → Lunch at Yumehana → Honke Chichiya → Tea Room Yuki Usagi → Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal → Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal
Transportation: 3,800 yen (one way: Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal → Shinjuku Bus Terminal)
Lunch, tea time, souvenirs: 3,000 yen or more
The writer visited these facilities on September 25, 2019.
Supported by Kusatsu Onsen Inn Owners Cooperative