If something ails you, you might be wise to visit Kusatsu Onsen. It's a popular tourist destination in Gunma Prefecture, northwest of Tokyo. Kusatsu boasts having thirteen public baths, all of which are free to use and maintained by the townspeople. The waters have been said to have healing properties for centuries, largely thanks to a German doctor, Erwin von Baelz, who taught medicine at Tokyo University. Locals also claim that the waters can heal any sickness, except a broken heart.
In the center of the town, guests can see the immense yubatake or hot water field. This incredible symbol of Kusatsu Onsen is not only a great photo spot, but also pumps out 32,300 liters of hot water every minute! Although the waters of the yubatake are too hot to bathe in, coming out at 70 degrees celsius, tourists can walk around the beautiful field of steaming waters before the slightly cooled water is pumped to various hot spring houses.
The yubatake and onsen town are especially beautiful at night. Enjoy a quiet stroll around the lit-up pool of water or rest your weary feet in the free ashiyu, or foot bath, at the edge of the yubatake. For a charming experience, many guests to the area don traditional cotton yukata and geta sandals.
Another interesting point is that each bathhouse has a slightly different pH and water quality. These waters range from milky to clear, but largely the waters are sulfuruous and acidic. They're said to be the best in Japan and each reportedly heals a different ailment. While you're in town, why not visit as many of the thirteen springs as possible? Aside from the public hot springs, there are also ryokan where guests can stay overnight or bathe in the waters for a fee.
A visit to Kusatsu Onsen is sure to rejuvenate the body and mind, and the soothing view of yubatake will calm your soul.
A 5-minute walk from the town's bus stop, the yubatake offers guests a stunning and almost surreal image of the water used in the various hot springs. The waters begin at 70 degrees celsius before they are cooled a few degrees and taken to the hotspring baths around the onsen town.
From Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station, a bus runs to Kusatsu Onsen Town. The yubatake is a 5-minute walk from the bus stop.
Surrounding the heart of Kusatsu’s famous Yubatake lies Kirishimaya Ryokan, a Japanese style inn owned by Nakazawa-san. However you can call Nakazawa-san by his nickname Gary. Gary Nakazawa is a local of Kusatsu and you will be surprised by his knowledge of medicinal effects of the water, of the Yumomi ritual and Jikan no Yu. The staff members here are Gary Nakazawa and his wife; and although it is a ryokan, at times it felt like I was at a homestay as Gary was more than happy to ask me what I did that day, telling me all the people he had met, recommending nearby attractions and sharing me his knowledge of Kusatsu’s waters.
Mount Kusatsu-Shirane (or Mount Shirane) is an active stratovolcano in Kusatsu, Gunma Prefecture. This 2,160-meter tall volcano has had notable eruptions in 1983 and 2018. There are three crater lakes at the summit of Mount Kusatsu-Shirane. The largest is Yu-gama crater lake; with its turquoise blue waters and rafts of yellow sulfur, it makes for a striking and mysterious vista to all who visit. It is also the most acidic lake in Japan. The volcano and its crater lakes, located just outside of Kusatsu Onsen Town, are a popular tourist destination, especially in autumn when the leaves are at their most vibrant. Hiking trails circle the crater lakes and make the hiking season, from mid-April to early November, a wonderful outdoor excursion. The most popular path is the from the Shirane Resthouse to Yu-gama. Thanks to the paved trail, the walk takes only ten minutes and is easy for people of all ages and skill.