10 Things to do in Kusatsu Onsen

Kusatsu Onsen is one of the most popular hot spring tourist destinations in Japan, having once been ranked No. 1 in the hot spring rankings. Visitors can stroll around the hot spring town centering on Yubatake, where they can feel the hot spring atmosphere, and experience the unique hot spring culture. In this issue, we will introduce 9 things you should do when you visit Kusatsu Onsen.


Take a walk around Yubatake

A five-minute walk from the Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal, the entrance to Kusatsu Onsen, you will see Yubatake, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kusatsu Onsen. Yubatake is a system used to cool the water from the source to take advantage of the wonderful qualities of the spring water. The hot water cascading down from the “Yudaki” (waterfall) is a testament to Kusatsu Onsen’s amazing spring water output.

The surrounding area is maintained as a park, and “Yukemuri-tei” where you can enjoy footbaths, “Toji Hiroba” which is a perfect resting place, and “Netsunoyu” where you can watch Kusatsu’s famous Yumomi show are also close by.

There are also souvenir stores and other stores, so take a stroll while feeling the hot spring atmosphere.

Enjoy hot spring (Onsen) town Gourmet

Kusatsu Onsen is also characterized by the liveliness of its hot spring resort area. Around the Yubatake area, there are many stores selling take-out gourmet foods that can be eaten and enjoyed. Particularly famous is the “deep fried manju ” from Yamabiko Onsen Manju. Other sweets such as onsen tamago (hot spring eggs), Wet Rice Crackers, pudding, and soft-serve ice cream are also available.

Enjoy hot water from 6 representative Kusatsu hot spring

Kusatsu Onsen has numerous sources, six of which are major hot springs.

Yubatake natural hot spring source (湯畑源泉)

Wooden troughs called mokuhi of Yubatake
Wooden troughs called mokuhi of Yubatake

The Yubatake natural hot spring, located in the center of the hot spring resort, flows from a wooden troughs to a hot spring waterfall, so that the hot water is naturally cooled by the outside air and distributed to various bathhouses and inns. It is characterized by its high content of natural “yunohana” (a component of hot spring water), which is used in bath salts and other products.

Shirohata natural hot spring source (白旗源泉)

Shirohata natural hot spring source
Shirohata natural hot spring source

The Shirohata natural hot spring source flowing next to the Yubatake is the oldest source in Kusatsu Onsen, and is said to have been discovered by Minamoto no Yoritomo. Shirahata-no-yu, a public bathhouse, draws hot water from this source.

Jizo natural hot spring source (地蔵源泉)

Jizo source

The Jizo hot spring source also contains great elements, and has long been said to be effective for eye diseases. There is also a small Jizo Yubatake nearby, which can be entered at the Jizo no Yu public bathhouse.

Nikawa natural hot spring source (煮川源泉)

Otaki no Yu (大滝乃湯)

The clear water of the Nikawa hot spring is not supplied to ryokan, and can only be enjoyed at the Otaki no Yu public bathhouse.

Bandai natural hot spring source (万代源泉)

Sainokawara Rotenburo (西の河原露天風呂)

The Bandai natural hot spring source, flowing on a hill, a short distance away from the hot spring resort, currently boasts the largest output of hot water in Kusatsu. While the water from other sources is around 50°C, the Bandai hot spring is considerably hotter at approximately 94.5°C, so a heat exchanger is used to lower the temperature. In addition to the Sainokawara Rotenburo (open-air bath), which offers an overwhelming sense of freedom, it is also used in many lodging facilities.

Incidentally, since the Nishi-no-Kawahara open-air bath is located in Nishi-no-Kawahara Park, people tend to think that the water is from the Nishi-no-Kawahara source, but this bath uses hot water from the Bandai source.

Sainokawara natural hot spring source (西の河原源泉)

Sainokawara Park (西の河原公園)

Located closer to the hot spring resort than Bandai Onsen, Sainokawara hot spring flowing from various locations in Sainokawara Park. Visitors can watch the hot spring water flowing as they stroll through the park.

Although we do not recommend that you enter all six of the above hot springs in a single day, you can enjoy Kusatsu Onsen even more if you know the characteristics of each hot spring. The water contains a lot of sulfur, which may discolor towels and other items, so be careful.

Enjoy the illumination of Kusatsu Onsen

Light up at night
Light up at night

Yubatake is beautifully illuminated at night. The lights of the surrounding stores and the steam rising from the hot spring are fantastic. This is also the site of a candlelight event called “the light of a dream,” in which more than 1,200 candles are gently lit on the steps of Kosenji Temple in front of the Yubatake.

The SainoKawara street and the Sainokawara open-air bath are also lit up at night. Enjoy strolling at night in a different atmosphere from that of the day.

Enjoy seasonal leisure activities

Shiga-Kusatsu Road (Sawayaka Kaido)

Kusatsu Onsen is located on a plateau at an altitude of 1,200 meters, with 2,000-meter-high mountains towering around it. The average temperature is lower than that of the plains, allowing visitors to enjoy summer and leisure activities.

The Tenguyama slope at Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort can be used as the “Tenguyama Play Zone” during the green season when there is no snow.
Visitors can come with a picnic, relax in the open space, and enjoy summer sports such as grass skiing and putt-putt (mini-golf), as well as various attractions that allow them to play while feeling the highland breeze. The lifts on the slopes are in operation during the summer, and you can also enjoy a view of the green mountains from the top of Mt. In winter, visitors can enjoy skiing and snowboarding on the smooth powder snow.

Rhododendron flowers
Rhododendron flowers

Kusatsu Onsen is also included in Joshin’etsukogen National Park, which straddles the three prefectures of Gunma, Nagano, and Niigata, and a short stroll from the hot spring resort will bring you close to spectacular natural scenery, including the alpine rhododendrons and the Yoshigadaira wetlands, a treasure trove of rare plants and animals even in the world. The area is also a great place to take a stroll while taking in the spectacular natural scenery.

Go to see a Yumomi show

Atsunoyu Hot water fir show

Kusatsu Onsen has developed its own bathing method since the Edo period. One of the most representative of these methods is “Yumomi” (stirring the hot spring water with wooden paddles). The sight of long paddles being used to stir the hot spring water is often shown on Japanese TV and other media. Yumomi is a method invented to utilize the benefits of hot spring water from sources as it is, without diluting it, which can reach temperatures of nearly 50°C.

Kusatsu specialty: Yumomi
experience of Yumomi

Wooden paddles are placed in the hot spring water to lower the temperature and soften the water as well as provide a preparatory exercise before taking a bath. At Netsu no Yu near Yubatake, where visitors can observe a yumomi show, visitors can actually experience yumomi.

Walking in Ura-Kusatsu

Many people think of Kusatsu as the area around Yubatake, but an area called Ura-Kusatsu, the Jizo district, has also been recently opened with various spots and is highly recommended.

Manga-do is a facility that opened in 2021. It houses approximately 10,000 manga books, including works by manga artists associated with Kusatsu Onsen. It is a must-see spot for manga lovers.

For those who want an unusual hot spring experience, we recommend the “face bath”. If you look through the square hole…the Jizo source is flowing directly below, and you can bathe your face in the steam from the hot spring. It feels great as if your skin is being packed!

Yukata-wearing hot spring town stroll

Strolling around the hot spring resort town in yukata is also a recommended way to spend time. Gozanoyu near Yubatake offers yukata rentals. Some ryokans also offer yukata rentals. You will surely enjoy Japanese culture more if you walk around the hot spring resort town in a yukata, which is colorful and cute.

Healed by animals

There are also facilities where you can interact with animals in the Kusatsu Onsen area. At “Kusatsu Onsen Osayu Yumomi Show,” you can watch a monkey bathing show. Visitors can enjoy the light-hearted interaction between the cast and monkeys. Capibaras can be seen soaking in the hot water on the second floor of the building.

A short distance from the hot spring resort area is the Kusatsu Tropical Wonderland. The facility includes a monkey mountain and a tropical dome inhabited by a wide variety of plants and animals. Some of the animals can even be touched.

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