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Kusatsu Onsen (in Japanese, 草津温泉) or Kusatsu Hot Springs is a hot spring resort and is located northwest of Tokyo. Kusatsu Onsen is one of the four large hot spring towns in Gunma Prefecture (the four largest being Ikaho Onsen, Kusatsu Onsen, Minakami Onsen and Shima Onsen). It has become one of the popular destinations for Tokyo'ites to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and relax on the weekends. The source of Kusatsu's hot spring water is nearby Mount Shirane (an active volcano) which is known for it's high acidity which can even dissolve metal. Kusatsu has the largest natural flow of hot spring water in all of Japan and the resort town has constantly occupied a top spot in onsen rankings. There is a famous and old saying about Kusatsu's hot springs baths, "The mineral waters of Kusatsu will cure every illness you have... except lovesickness" (some visitors have claimed that certain pain magically disappeared after soaking in the baths).
Kusatsu Onsen's hot springs water includes sulphur, iron, alum, aluminium sulfate, chloride and arsenic with water temperatures ranging from 60 to 67 degrees Centigrade. The anti-bacterial nature of the water is thought to help cure a number of diseases including arthritis, diabetes, fatigue, hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and muscular ailments. Kusatsu gained further fame in the late 1800's when a German doctor who taught medicine at Tokyo University, Erwin von Baelz, stated that soaking in the hot springs of Kusatsu is beneficial for health.
Before soaking and relaxing one of the many hot springs at a Japanese Inn or Public Bath, most tourists will walk around town visiiting Yubatake, Sai No Kawara Street and Sai No Kawara Park. Sai No Kawara street is a very pleasant street full of very stylish, old fashioned ryokan or minshuku and loads of great souvenir and traditional sweet shops. Even if you are on a tight budget, it's a great place for some window shopping. The area around Kusatsu offers skiing during the winter and hiking during the summer. After one of these activities or after just a long day of walking and or traveling, soaking in one of the many hot springs baths of Kusatsu is sure to sooth your aching muscles. Since the Kusatsu Onsen area is relatively small, most people walk the area. However, there is also a bus that runs around the town called the "Kusatsu Loop Bus". It costs 100 yen to ride (even if your going just one stop) and just press the button to alert the driver when you want to get off at the next stop. When exiting insert your 100 yen into the fare box when you get off the bus.
Hotels & Lodging
Yubatake is the 2nd main attraction/reason why people come to Kusatsu (the 1st reason being they wish to soak in the hot water baths). It is however, the main source of hot springs water for many of the Ryokans and Bathing Houses in Kusatsu. This "hot water field" generates approximately 5000 liters of hot spring water ....see more details.
Mount Shirane is an active volcano near the popular hot springs town of Kusatsu. It is also one of Japan's "most famous mountains" as the crater lake at the summit is known for it's beautiful "Emerald Green Water". With a pH of approximately 1.0, it is known as the most acidic lake in Japan. Being one of Japan's ....see more details.
Sai No Kawara Park (in Japanese; 西の河原公園, Sainokawara Kouen) is a short walk from the town center of Kusatsu. It is another one of the main tourist destinations for people who come to Kusatsu so depending on the day, it can be crowded (or if you get lucky, very few people). Walking trails lead through the park following a small stream/river that is fed by several hot spring sources. There is also a small waterfall fed by hot water. The popular "Sai No Kawara Public Outdoor Bath" is also in this park.
Yumomi (in Japanese; 湯もみ, Yumomi) is the traditional method Japanese use to "cool down" a hot springs bath so humans can enter. They stir the water with large wooden paddles while singing local folk songs. There is a daily Yumomi Performance held at the Netsunoyu building which is right next to the Yubatake. If your lucky you may be chosen to participate in the Yumomi.
Kusatsu Kokusai Ski Resort (in Japanese; 草津国際スキー場, Kusatsu Kokusai Skiijyou) is a ski resort very close to central Kusatsu Onsen (5 min. bus, 20 min. walk) and boasts one of the longest runs in Japan, almost 8 kilometers! The upper-half of the mountain has intermediate and advanced runs while the bottom half has more beginner runs. In the summer the resort changes into a "Summer Resort" that offers mountain biking, miniature golf and grass cart. There is a large network of walking trails leads up and around the mountain toward Mount Shirane and you can use the resort's ropeway cover part of the journey. Access: There is a free shuttle bus that runs every hour between the Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal and the ski resort. It is only a 5 min. ride on the bus. You can even walk to the ski resort from central Kusatsu as it only takes 15-20 minutes. Please visit the Kusatsu Kokusai Ski Resort Official Website for detailed information.
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