Kusatsu Onsen – stunningly unique hot spring town

kusatsu_onsen_budget_guide

Kusatsu Onsen (草津温泉) is a hot spring town in the Japanese Alps, and popular with Japanese tourists. Foreign visitors should not expect to find they are the only non-Japanese tourists here, but the town is one of best for hot spring experiences. The stunning hot spring water that flows though the centre of town is a sight all must see!

Budget travel tips

  • If you are not using a rail pass, get a night bus to save on accommodation (which can be expensive in Kusatsu Onsen).
  • Be sure to walk around the town and try some free samples! The traditional, and freshly baked, Japanese bean cakes are to die for.

Things to do

kusatsu onsen YubatakeYubatake (FREE)

Meaning ‘hot water field’, Yabatake is a huge area in the center of town where the hot spring water is divided and cooled. Bring your camera and take probably the best photos of your trip.

 

kusatsu_onsen_Netsu-no-Yu-BathhouseNetsu-no-Yu Bathhouse

Another unique experience in Kusatsu Onsen, here you can see ‘Yumomi’ performances. The water is cooled down using wooden planks, while dancers perform traditional folk songs to watchers.

Performance times: see board outside bathhouse (north side of Yabatake)

Price: 500 yen

Free footbaths

There are a few free footbaths located around Yabatake, open 24/7!

 

kusatsu_onsen_Sai-no-Kawara_streetSai-no-Kawara street
A fun place for window shopping, this street is full of old-school gifts and snacks. Look out for free samples or have fun boiling eggs in hot spring water. Located on the street to the right of Netsu-no-Yu Bathhouse.

 

 

kusatsu_onsen_Sai-no-Kawara_parkSai-no-Kawara Park

An interesting little park showing off some volcanic streams, hot spring pools and large clouds of steam. Located on the west side of town, after Sai-no-Kawara street follow the signs.

 

Sai-no-Kawara Hot Spring

Inside the park is this huge outdoor spring, offering an extremely authentic hot spring experience.

Open: 9 AM to 8 PM

Price: 500 yen

Otaki-no-yu
If you want to try out another hot spring, then is Otaki-no-yu is the place for you! There are a variety of indoor and outdoor baths, as well as a sauna and restaurant. Just 5 minutes away from Yabatake on foot.
Open: 9 AM to 9 PM
Price: 800 yen
kusatsu_onsen_mount_shirane
Mount Shirane
The source of the hot spring water in Kusatsu Onsen, and another awesome place to take a photo or two. In the summer and autumn it is possible to walk up and get a photo of the volcanic water in the crater and over the mountains. Take the Seibu Kogen bus from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal to Mount Shirane bus stop, the walk up then only takes 10 minutes.

Recommended hostels and cheap hotels

Yoneyamakan

Probably the cheapest place here, I’m afraid, but you will only need to stay 1 night to get everything done in Kusatsu Onsen. This is a centrally located, traditional inn with tatami rooms. Check prices at Booking.com or Agoda.

More at HostelWorldBooking.com and Agoda.

How to get there

From Takasaki station, take the JR Agatsuma Line to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi station. This connects with a direct bus to Kusatsu Onsen (690 yen, 30 mins). Note the bus fee is waived only if you use a Japan Rail Pass, and not other passes.

Tokyo to Takasaki with a Japan Rail Pass, JR East Pass, JR TOKYO Wide Pass or Tokyo-Osaka Hokuriku Arch Pass

Take a JR Shinkansen Line to Takasaki (2 hours) and then transfer from there (see above). There is also a less frequent direct Limited Express train from Ueno station to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi station (2.5 hours), which also connects with a bus.

Tokyo to Takasaki without a rail pass

The trip can be done on local trains from Ueno or Shinjuku in Tokyo (3 hours, 3020 yen). Alternatively, there are direct buses from Tokyo with JR Bus from Shinjuku Bus Terminal (4 hours, 3300 yen).

Map

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