Kusatsu Onsen has been established as one of Japan’s most popular hot spring resorts for many centuries. Located in rural Gunma Prefecture, 1200 metres above sea level in the mountains, the town offers skiing in winter and hiking during the summer months, both combined with hot spring bathing. The town’s waters are said to cure every illness except lovesickness!
The town is built up around its central attraction, the Yubatake, which literally translates as ‘Hot Water Field’. This is one of Japan’s most productive hot springs, gushing out over 5000 litres per minute to the many ryokan and shops which have grown up around it. The Yubatake is lit up at night and it’s a popular pastime to stroll around it in the evening, wearing yukata and wooden geta sandals.
The onsen water in Kusatsu is sulphurous and highly acidic and has long been considered among Japan’s most therapeutic spas. In addition to the many ryokan in the town, there are also a variety of public bath-houses and some of these offer a unique bathing experience called Jikanyu, in which bathers submerge themselves in very hot water (typically 48 degrees) for exactly 3 minutes; timed to allow the pores to open and blood flow to increase, without any of the negative effects that lingering in such hot water might produce.
Kusatsu also offers an unusual Onsen Museum, which describes the history of onsen and of Kusatsu town itself, as well as Yumomi, a traditional method of cooling down the hot spring water to a temperature suitable for bathing.