This travel guide of Kusatsu Gunma is aimed towards the casual traveller of any age.
¥4,000 – ¥5,000 per person
The Yubatake, or “hot spring field”, is the source and symbol of Kusatsu. This site produces 4,000 liters of hot spring water per minute! At the top of the Yubatake, geothermal water bubbles up from the ground and runs down along wooden chutes that naturally cool the water. The water comes out so hot you can see steam rise even in summer. There are also many ‘hands & foot’ baths along the Yubatake. Relax, and enjoy the healing benefits of onsen while taking in the beautiful sights of Kusatsu. Tip: bring your towel to dry your feet.
With water pouring out so hot, how is one to cool it down without affecting the water’s special minerals? The answer: “Yumomi”. Yumomi is a centuries-old practice where a group of locals use large, wooden planks to splash around the hot water while dancing and singing folk songs. Inside Netsu-no-Yu, you can watch and experience this century-old tradition first hand. The performance is held six times per day and tickets are ￥600 for adults and ￥300 for kids.
Sainokawara Park is a must-see! As you walk along the river that runs through the park, you can enjoy the scene of smaller hot spring flowing all around you. The acidity of the hot spring sources is so high that no plant life can survive. Instead, the park is decorated with lanterns, torii gates, and various foot baths (don’t forget your towel!). At night, the mixture of rising steam flowing over the park lanterns and walkways make you feel like you have stepped into another world. Admission to the park is free and is about a 10-minute walk from the Yubatake.
Up the hill from the Yubatake sits Kosenji Temple. From the stairs leading to the main grounds of the temple, you have a great vantage point to look down at the Yubatake and the steam that envelopes the surrounding buildings of Kusatsu. Kosenji Temple itself is also worth a good look around. Also, there are various monuments on the grounds, two of which include two famous Japanese poets who praised the hot spring waters of Kusatsu.
There is an ancient pull connected with onsen. The feeling of relaxation, peace, and a connection to nature is something you can’t experience anywhere else. Luckily, Kusatsu is jam-packed with bathhouses that give you that feeling. I recommend Goza-no-Yu. Walking in, you’ll feel you’ve stepped back in time with it’s Edo and Meiji-period architecture. They have towels for purchase, yukata rental, showers with shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lockers. On the second floor, there is a relaxation room that overlooks the Yubatake. Admission is ￥600 (adults), ￥300 (kids).
Many legends surround Kusatsu and their origins. One of the oldest includes how Kusatsu may have been discovered. Shirahata Gensen, a small looking shack located in front of Goza-no-Yu onsen, is said to be this site. Legend has it that the first shogun of Japan, Minamoto Yoritomo, found boiling water bubbling up from the ground while on a hunting trip. Goza-no_yu is said to be built on top of the rock where Minamoto Yoritomo sat to enjoy the hot spring water. Minamoto Yoritomo ruled from 1192 to 1199.
In a small Japanese town like Kusatsu, it may be a bit difficult to find comfort food. Especially if you may have a child who is a picky eater. My family and I found Silverback Grill and Beer and were very satisfied with the selection. They have plenty of hamburgers, roasted chicken or pork, vegetables, and fries to go around. Silverback Grill and Beer is located on the second floor above Cafe Quatre Freres, which means you have a great view of the Yubatake while enjoying your meal.
Location : (Google Map)