Kusatsu onsen [草津温泉]
Yubatake & Kusatsu onsen town
A street in Kusatsu onsen town
Kusatsu onsen is a hot spring resort in the west part of Gunma Prefecture.
It is located about 40 km west-northwest of Shibukawa city, and about 60 km from Takasaki city.
The main railway station is Naganohara-Kusatsu-guchi of JR Agatsuma Line, and the distance from the station is about 15 km.
The resort is on the eastern slope of Mount Kusatsu-Shirane (草津白根山, 2,160 m).
The onsen town is located at the level of about 1,200 meters.
This hot spring had been known since ancient times, and had been famous all over the country in the 15th century.
So, it is one of the most major hot spring resorts in Japan.
In the center of the resort town, there is one of the 6 places springing hot water.
It is called Yubatake (湯畑), and is like a large pond.
Always abundant hot water is flowing like a waterfall.
This is the symbol of Kusatsu.
There are most hotels, ryokans and public bathes within the area of about 500 meters from Yubatake, and they use this hot water.
Near Yubatake, there is Gozanoyu (御座之湯).
It is a public bathhouse, and was rebuilt in 2013.
It is said that the old Gozanoyu had been opened near Yubatake until the 19th century.
The water of Kusatsu hot spring is strongly-acid (about pH 2.0).
So it is said that the hot spring cure skin disease, neuralgia and other various diseases except "sickness of love".
But the temperature of the water is 50 to 90 degrees C.
Because it is too hot, the people in olden times had stirred the hot water in the bathtab with long wooden boards with a united effort, to lower the temperature and have a bath comfortably.
To keep the rhythm of work, a popular folk song "Kusatsu-bushi" were composed.
The work is called "yumomi" in Japanese, and had been performed only in Kusatsu onsen.
Of course, it is not done as the real work now.
But, it is performed as a show for preserving a traditional culture.
We can see the show of yumomi singing Kasatsu-bushi at Netsunoyu (熱乃湯) in front of Yubatake.
The show is performed 6 times a day. (9:30, 10:00, 10:30, 15:00, 15:30, 16:00)
Entrance of Kosenji
Main temple of Kosenji
There is Kosenji (光泉寺) on a hill near Yubatake.
It is a Buddhist temple founded by high priest Gyoki in 721.
It is said that Gyoki opened Kusatsu onsen in legend, but there is no historical record to prove it.
The first building was built in 1200, and current temple was rebuilt in 1890.
Shakadou in the precincts was built in 1703, and is the oldest building in Kusatsu.
At the western end of the town, there is another famous place springing hot water.
It is called Nishi-no-kawara or Sai-no-kawara (西の河原).
It is a natural park along a stream, and there are some places springing hot water.
There is the visitor center in a corner of the park, and a public outdoor bathing facility near the building.
It has two wide outdoor baths for men and for women like pool.
It is open from the morning to 20:00 every day.
How to get here
By limited express "Kusatsu" of JR Joetsu Line and Agatsuma Line, about 2 hours and 25 to 30 minutes from Ueno to Naganohara-Kusatsu-guchi.
Or, from Takasaki, by local train of JR Agatsuma Line, about 1 hour and 30 minutes to Naganohara-Kusatsu-guchi.
Then, change to a route bus.
About 25 minutes to Kusatsu onsen.
By express bus, from Shinjuku station, about 4 hours and 10 minutes.