It seems every time you mention to a Japanese person you are going traveling to “X”, they say, “Oh! ‘X’ has many great hot springs and the seafood is so delicious!”
This time, only half of that was true! Well, I mean, of course the seafood was delicious, but since Kusatsu is located inland, between many mountains and close to forests, the seafood isn’t it’s main selling point–the water is! ;D
Kusatsu is one of the top rated onsen towns in Japan. 32,000 liters of water flows every minute–the largest amount in all of Japan! The water is extremely acidic too. A long metal nail left in the water for 10 days will be reduced to a long skinny metal toothpick!
The water is famous for its many health benefits. An old emperor once made his men fetch water from Kusatsu so he could bathe and get its health benefits all the way in Tokyo! It’s reputation is “it can fix any ailment, except heartache.”
The town maintains some of its traditional style. You won’t see any skyscrapers, but small Japanese style guest houses, o-mise (restaurants) and even a nice temple. Of course the center of town is formed around the holy Yubatake. The smell of Sulfur is clearly detectable!
This naturally flowing water is naturally extremely hot and impossible to bathe in. This wooden structure was designed to cool the water so the nearby onsens can make them available to us sensitive humans. In the night, Yubatake is lit up beautifully, giving the town a magical feel.
Yumomi is a traditional way to cool the water. Women stir the water to let to air cool it faster. You can watch a performance for 600 yen. You can also try to to stir it yourself! They stir and sing, and do a dance as well!
My favorite onsen in Kusatsu was Ohtaki-no-yu.
Inside, there was one large onsen with three small trickles of water from high above that are good to get your shoulders massaged on, an icy cold onsen, and outside is a small outdoor onsen that is comfortable with the cool fresh air in your lungs and warm water on your skin. It was the most beautiful of them all (and don’t worry, the yard is walled so outside people cannot see you naked in the onsen!). The water maintains a milky color due to all of the minerals inside it. Back inside the building is another room with three baths made of Japanese cedar, varying degrees. The topmost bath was so hot, I could only stay in for two minutes without almost passing out! I had to take a seat on the bench along the wall after that, haha! There is also a sauna for use.
But as I mentioned, because of the excess of water, there are also many free (small and withOUT mirrors, free facial/body soap amenities, hairdryers) around town too. Like Lake Toya, there are also free foot and hand baths around as well.
Yuuki and I stayed at Youngin, a part of Kusatsu Onsen Hotel Takamatsu. Yougin is a separated building from the main hotel, and rather old, plain, and not ideal to be honest. The hall way reeked of tobacco, but for 7,500 yen each per night right after New Years, we couldn’t really complain! The main building had onsens on the 4th floor. I remember 6 of them. I enjoyed taking turns using each of them! If you stay at this hotel, don’t forget to use their relaxation room. They had 6 VERY good massage chairs to use for FREE! I spent one hour getting massaged, and drinking a chuu-high from the vending machine. Bliss.
We had a great time exploring the little streets. Towards the park, people will hand out free “Manjuu” or sweet steamed buns with sweet red bean paste inside and offer you green tea. It’s free, and delicious. Don’t forget to visit the park Sai-no-Kawara (which also has an outdoor onsen, or Rotemburo) . It was snowing, and the steam from the river juxtaposed to the white snow was so beautiful I couldn’t take any picture.
Food we ate:
What a great way to spend the New Years!
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