10 October 2012, Japan – Japan is known worldwide for the excellence of its mineral and hot water springs originating from a volcanic geology. Therapeutic effects of an ‘onsen’ (hot-spring) have been acknowledged for centuries and a ‘rotenburo’ (open-air bath) set within a marvelous landscape is definitely the best way to indulge one’s body and soul.
Kusatsu (草津) is located at the southeastern foot of Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane-san at an altitude of 1200 meters above sea level in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture. The town became well known about 120 years ago after Dr. Erwin von Baelz, a medical doctor from Germany, who served in the imperial court in the late 1800s and recommended Kusatsu for its water’s health benefits.
The highly touted hot springs at Kusatsu contain sulfur, iron, aluminum, and even trace amounts of arsenic. The yu-batake (hot-spring field) gushes 5,000 liters of boiling, sulfur-laden water per minute before it’s cooled in seven long wooden boxes and sent to more than 130 ryokan in the village
Based on the survey conducted by the Nihon Onsen Association, Kusatsu is currently at number 1 for “Most Desirable Resort to Visit” and “Most Memorable Resort” amongst the Japanese onsen lovers.
In the center of the town, two spots are particularly popular all year round: ‘Yubatake,’ one of the fountainheads, and Netsu-no-yu, where ‘yumomi’ (stirring hot water with paddle-like wooden boards to cool it down) demonstrations are shown.
Among the public bath houses located around Kusatsu, the larger ones with more baths and facilities charge admission (typically 500-1000 yen). However, there are also eighteen communal baths across the town that consist of only one or two small (2-4 person) tubs and are free to use.
One of the most famous and popular public baths is Sainokawara Rotenburo, a large open air bath located in the Sainokawara park. The nice mix of pleasant atmosphere, fantastic water quality and beautiful scenery that makes it the perfect rotenburo experience
The smell of a sulphur laden hot onsen against the bitter cold air of winter, sitting naked in the hot water,letting the thick snowflakes fall on your head. This has got to be the best Winter Onsen experience.
By train and bus via Naganohara
Trains travel as far as Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station, from where there are JR buses to Kusatsu Onsen (30 minutes, 670 yen). The Japan Rail Pass is valid on both the trains and the bus to Kusatsu.
There are various ways to get from Tokyo to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station. The most convenient is by direct limited express train from Tokyo’s Ueno Station, requiring 2.5 hours and costing about 5000 yen for the one way trip. However, there are only around three round trips per day.
There are multiple direct JR highway buses from Tokyo (Shinjuku JR Highway Bus Terminal) to Kusatsu per day. The one way trip costs 3200 yen and takes about four hours. The Japan Rail Pass is not valid on these buses.
There is also one daily highway bus between Nagoya and Kusatsu, requiring six hours and costing 6000 yen for the one way trip.
Above fees and schedules are subject to change. For the current Yen exchange rate.