Region
Kanto
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Maebashi
Population
2,024,820

Kusatsu Onsen

Bathe like royalty and experience the local longtime tradition of yumomi.

The healing power of Kusatsu Onsen is so treasured that Japan’s first, eighth and 10th shoguns had its thermal water shipped all the way to Tokyo so they could bathe in it. The revered hot spring area in Gunma Prefecture is located just two and a half hours from Tokyo by car.

Yubatake, Kustatsu Onsen Gunma Japan

Yubatake, a source of hot spring water for hotels around Kusatsu Onsen.

This hot spring mecca is one of Japan’s three most famous onsen towns along with Gero and Arima Onsen. Kusatsu owes its reputation to the immense quality and quantity of its healing spring water. The acidity is strong enough to kill bacteria on contact as well as treat inflammation.

White rocks on the mountaintop and the emerald green water of Lake Yugama feel otherworldly.

In Kusatsu, there’s a unique type of hot spring with water sourced from a hot crater lake called Lake Yugama. You’ll find it 1,2000 meters above sea level on top of Mount Shirane (also known as Mount Kusatsu-Shirane). It’s only 30 minutes away from the main tourist area by bus, so definitely add it to your itinerary.

The volcanic lake at Mount Kusatsu-Shirane.

Mount Kusatsu-Shirane.

With a moon-like scenery, the white rocks on the mountaintop and the emerald green water of Lake Yugama feel otherworldly. Yugama is also known to be one of the most acidic lakes in the world.

What's it like bathing in Kusatsu?

The small town of Kusatsu has a historic feel to it. Simply strolling around the old-world streets will allow you to experience true Japanese culture through the mixture of hot springs, restaurants, local shops, and nature. If you’re looking for some souvenirs, you can find Kusatsu Yunohana bath salts and the famous onsen manju (sweet bean cakes) at several local shops.

The heart and soul of Kusatsu

In the center of Kusatsu is the main area, Yubatake, which translates to English as “hot water field.” A source of hot spring waters for nearby hotels, Yubatake is a unique place where you can observe the sulphuric waters actually flowing down from Mount Shirane.

Yumomi

Photo by: Duke Yuin A yumomi performance where local women sing while stirring the scorching hot spring water.

The active volcano (which last erupted in 2018, after more than 30 years of inactivity) gives the water an extremely hot temperature of about 70 degrees Celsius. It’s impossible to take a bath at that temperature!

That’s why the locals of Kusatsu have developed a technique called yumomi. This describes the process of stirring bathwater using wide wooden planks in order to cool it down instead of adding cold water which would compromise its purity. You can observe this local tradition at Netsu-no-yu, a local onsen next to Yubatake.

Around Yubatake, you can also dip your toes in the public foot baths. Mingle with other tourists and locals as you soak your feet in the soothing hot water.

Yubatake

Photo by: Ruxandra Florea Warm those feet.

The best time to admire Yubatake onsen is during the evening. Once the sun sets, multicolored lights around the hot spring turn the scenery into something magical.

Trivia

What's it like bathing in Kusatsu?

Check out our review of this steamy hot spring paradise over at GaijinPot Blog. Spoiler alert: it was awesome!

More

Things To Know

Fees and hours

The Yumomi performances at Netsu-no-yu can be watched six times a day (9:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m). The admission fee for adults is ¥600 and ¥300 for children.

Lake Yugama

From mid-November to mid-April, visitors are unable to reach Lake Yugama due to road closures. The Mount Shirane Ropeway may another option to see the lake area during this time. Note that the ropeway will close if there has been any recent volcanic activity.

How To Get There

Address

Japan, 〒377-1711 Gunma-ken, Agatsuma-gun, Kusatsu-machi, Kusatsu, 湯畑

By train

From Ueno Station ride the Limited Express Train Kusatsu (about 2.5 hours) or the JR Takasaki Line and JR Agatsuma Line (about three hours and 15 minutes) to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station. From there, take the JR bus for about 30 minutes to Kusatsu Onsen. Yubatake is a five-minute walk from the Kusatsu Bus Terminal.

By bus

You can take a highway bus from Shinjuku JR Highway Bus Terminal to Kusatsu (around four hours. From Karuizawa, ride the Seibu Kogen Bus or the Kusakaru-Kotsu Bus to Kusatsu Onsen.

You can reach Mount Shirane by bus from Kusatsu Bus Terminal to the Shirane Resthouse in around 30 minutes.

By car

Kusatsu Onsen is a 2 hour-and-25 minute drive from central Tokyo.

Where To Stay

Yubatake Souan
  • Kusatsu 118-1 Agatsuma-Gun-Kusatsu-Machi, Gunma 377-1711
  • 8.6/10
  • 0.0 km
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Daitokan
  • Kusatsu 126 Agatsuma-Gun-Kusatsu-Machi, Gunma 377-1711
  • 6.7/10
  • 0.1 km
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Naraya
  • Kusatsu 396 Agatsuma-Gun-Kusatsu-Machi, Gunma 377-1711
  • 8.5/10
  • 0.1 km
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Yakushi no Yu Yumotokan
  • Kusatsu 366 Agatsuma-Gun-Kusatsu-Machi, Gunma 377-1711
  • 8.5/10
  • 0.1 km
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