If you are after a hot spring town close to Tokyo, consider Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma Prefecture. Renowned as one of Japan’s leading hot spring resorts, it is blessed with large volumes of high-quality hot spring water with great medical benefits as well as a unique performance called Yumomi. Moreover, most parts of the onsen town are stroller friendly. With many shops and restaurants around, you can shop and eat to your heart’s content. So if you want to visit Kusatsu Onsen during your next Japan trip, read on for all the amazing attractions in Kusatsu Onsen!
A List of Attractions in Kusatsu Onsen
- Kusatsu Onsen’s Three Public Bathhouses – Kusatsu Santō (草津三湯)
- Kusatsu Onsen’s Unique Communal Public Bathhouses (共同浴場)
- The Recommended Hotels/Ryokans in Kusatsu Onsen
- The Recommended Shops and Restaurants on Kusatsu Onsen’s Main Street – Sainokawara Street
- Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal (草津温泉バスターミナル)
- Kusatsu Confectionary Seigetsudō (草津菓匠 清月堂)
- Shunsai Chaya Yumehana (旬彩茶屋 夢花)
- Yubatake (湯畑)
- Netsunoyu (熱乃湯)
- Honke Chichiya (本家ちちや)
- Kōsenji Temple (光泉寺)
- Yubatake Souan Foot Spa Cafe (湯畑草菴 足湯カフェ)
- Kusatsu Onsen Gensen Ichinoyu (草津温泉 源泉一乃湯)
- Yubatake Souan (湯畑草菴)
- Shirane Shrine (白根神社)
- Grandefiume KUSATSU (グランデフューメ草津)
- Kusatsu Mori no Iyashi Hodō Promenade (草津森の癒し歩道)
- Sainokawara Park (西の河原公園)
- Kusatsu Forest Stage (草津フォレストステージ)
- Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort (草津温泉スキー場) & Tenguyama Play Zone (天狗山プレイゾーン)
- Roadside station Kusatsu Undōjayakōen (道の駅 草津運動茶屋公園)
- Shiga Kusatsu Kōgen Route (志賀草津高原ルート)
- Events at Kusatsu Onsen
Refer to Kusatsu Onsen’s map HERE.
Click HERE to Skip to Kusatsu Onsen’s Access Information
☛ Refer to HERE for a few things about Kusatsu Onsen that are good to know in advance.
☛ There is a 2-Day Tour departing from Tokyo covering Kamikochi, Tateyama Kurobe Snow Wall, and Kusatsu Onsen. Refer to HERE for more information.
A Summary of Kusatsu Onsen
Kusatsu Onsen is located halfway up Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane near the border of Nagano Prefecture. The hot spring town, located at an altitude of 1,200 meters, has been a famous place where the Japanese go to cure serious injuries and chronic diseases. Together with Kobe‘s Arima Onsen and Gifu‘s Gero Onsen, they are known as the Three Most Famous Onsen in Japan. Many well-known Japanese historical figures such as Yamato Takeru no Mikoto (日本武尊), Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝), Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康), and Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉) all benefited from the health benefits of Kusatsu Onsen’s strong acidic hot spring.
In the Edo period (1603 – 1867), Kusatsu’s hot spring was one of the tributes the province offered to the Shōgun of Tokugawa shogunate, including the 8th Shōgun, Tokugawa Yoshimune (徳川吉宗) and the 10th Shōgun, Tokugawa Ieharu (徳川家治).
What distinguishes Kusatsu Onsen from other hot spring resorts in Japan is Yobatake (湯畑), where hot spring continues to gush out. Ryokans, hotels, restaurants, and shops are gathered around this symbol of the onsen town.
In addition to being a hot spring resort, Kusatsu Onsen is also a summer resort. And although many international tourists aren’t aware of it, you can also ski and snowboard at Kusatsu Onsen! But just note that Kusatsu Onsen’s hot spring is sulphur based. So if you dislike the smell or find it unpleasant, it might not be the hot spring resort you would want to visit.
How to Get to Kusatsu Onsen
To get to Kusatsu Onsen by public transportation from Tokyo or Kansai, there are a few methods.
Tip: Refer to Kusatsu Onsen’s official website HERE for the train and bus timetables.
By JR’s Limited Express – Kusatsu (特急草津) + JR Bus
You can take the limited express train, Kusatsu, from Ueno Station. It will take around 2.5 hours to get to Nagano Harakusatsuguchi Station (長野原草津口駅) before you change for JR Bus to get to Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal (草津温泉バスターミナル). The buses are scheduled to coincide with train arrivals/departures.
This method’s estimated total time is around 3 to 3.5 hours, including 25 minutes on the bus.
Note that the bus to Kusatsu Onsen cannot be reserved. If the bus is full before departure, it might even leave earlier than the scheduled departure time.
But don’t worry as there are usually extra bus services!
Tip: If you missed the limited express, you can take the bullet train to Takasaki Station (高崎駅) and change for the local train to Nagano Harakusatsuguchi Station.
A List of JR Passes that Covers Kusatsu Onsen
Below is a list of JR passes covering Kusatsu Onsen and other regions. Please keep in mind that depending on your itinerary, a JR pass may or may not be worthwhile for your trip. You can estimate the transportation cost using Google Maps and compare the total price to a JR pass.
By Hokuriku Shinkansen + Bus Operated by Kukaru Kōtsū (草軽交通) or Seibu (西武観光バス)
An even faster way to get to Kusatsu Onsen from Tokyo is by taking the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Karuizawa (軽井沢). Once you get off the train at Karuizawa Station, you can either take the bus operated by Kukaru Kōtsū or Seibu to get to Kusatsu Onsen.
This method’s estimated total time is around 2.5 to 3 hours.
By Express Bus Jōshū Yumeguri-gō (上州ゆめぐり号)
You can also take an express bus from Shinjuku Bus Terminal (バスタ新宿), which will take around 4 hours and 40 minutes. Apart from Shinjuku Bus Terminal, you can also board from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu South exit (東京駅八重洲南口).
You can reserve your seat through JR East Bus’s official website HERE.
This option is probably the most convenient as no transfer is involved, and multiple services are available daily!
By Tokyu Transsés (東急トランセ)
While the number of services is less than Jōshū Yumeguri-gō, you can also choose to travel with Tokyu Transsés.
You can reserve your seat via Bookaway.com. All you need to do is to search from Tokyo to Kusatsu!
How to Get to Kusatsu Onsen from Nagano
If you also plan to visit Nagano, you can take Nagaden Bus’s Shiga Kōgen Line (志賀高原線) from Nagano Station’s east exit (長野駅東口). You can also board the bus from Obuse, a town in Nagano known for its chestnut desserts and Ukiyo-e arts.
Reservation is not required to board this bus service. Refer to the below links for the service’s timetables. Kusatsu Onsen is written as “草津温泉” on the timetable.
- Shiga Kōgen Line Winter Timetable
- Shiga Kōgen Line Summer Timetable (from the beginning of April to the beginning of December)
How to Get Around Kusatsu Onsen
Most of the attractions in Kusatsu Onsen are within walking distance. But if you prefer to take public transportation, you can utilize the Kusatsu Town Loop Bus (草津町内巡回バス). The bus that departs from Kusatsu Bus Terminal Stop no. 8.
Kusatsu Town Loop Bus has three routes. The route most suitable for tourists is the A course, which stops at major attractions in the town.
- One trip costs 100 yen.
- While in Japanese, HERE is the bus service timetable in a PDF file.
☛ Kusatsu Town Loop Bus is primarily a service for the locals. So please be considerate and let the locals board the bus when possible.
☛ The bus can only take luggage of a size up to around your knee and lighter than 10kg.
☛ Out of the three buses, there is one Wheelchair Accessible Courtesy Bus.
☛ There are free shuttle buses linking Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal and Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort/Tenguyama Play Zone. Refer to HERE for the winter timetable and HERE for the summer timetable.
Bicycle Rental at Kusatsu Onsen
If you prefer to explore Kusatsu Onsen on a bicycle, you can rent one from Kusatsu Onsen Hotel Village from 9 am to 6 pm from mid-April to late November at 880 yen per person (660 yen if you are a hotel guest).
If you want to stay at Kusatsu Onsen Hotel Village, you can make a booking through klook!
A Few Things that You Will Want to Know About Kusatsu Onsen
- The temperature difference can be significant between day and night time. Remember to bring a jacket if you plan to visit Kusatsu Onsen during spring and autumn.
- A skirt or pair of pants that can be rolled up to the knees is recommended to enjoy the free foot spas scattered around the hot spring resort.
- Most shops around Yubatake close by 6 pm.
- If you wear a Yukata, special perks and/or discounts await you at participating shops and restaurants.
- While in Japanese only, HERE is the link to a list of participating shops and restaurants.
- In addition to the free foot spas, in February 2021, there are three Te Arai no Yu (手洗乃湯) set up in Kusatsu Onsen. It is the most convenient way to experience the hot spring, with the onsen also disinfecting your hands!
- Refer to the official website HERE for bathing manners and manners in ryokans.
Kusatsu Onsen’s Three Public Bathhouses – Kusatsu Santō (草津三湯)
If you want to be like a local and don’t mind bathing with strangers, we highly recommend visiting at least one of the below three public bathhouses in Kusatsu Onsen. Together they are known as Kusatsu Santō, all for same-day visitors and are sourcing onsen from one of Kusatsu’s six main hot spring sources. You can even experience Kusatsu’s traditional bathing method in one of the bathhouses!
- Goza no yu
- Ohtaki no Yu
- Sainokawara Open-Air Bath
Refer to our Guide to Kusatsu Onsen’s Public Bathhouses for more information.
Kusatsu Onsen’s Unique Communal Public Bathhouses (共同浴場)
In Kusatsu Onsen, there are a couple of public bathhouses utilized by the locals. Unlike the normal public houses, these are administered by the locals and are free to use. But apart from the below three bathhouses, they are not open to tourists.
- Chiyo no Yu (千代の湯)
- Shirahata no Yu (白旗の湯)
- Jizō no Yu (地蔵の湯)
Refer to our Guide to Kusatsu Onsen’s Public Bathhouses for more information!
The Recommended Hotels/Ryokans in Kusatsu Onsen
As one of Japan’s best hot spring towns, Kusatsu Onsen is inevitably filled with accommodation facilities. Choosing where to stay for the night can be hard as there are so many to choose from!
So if you prefer to dine out at night to enjoy local food or have special dietary requirements, refer to our Guide on Kusatsu Onsen’s Ryokans/Hotels. A few of them even allow day visitors to reserve their private baths!
The Recommended Shops and Restaurants on Kusatsu Onsen’s Main Street – Sainokawara Street
Between the hot spring sessions at Kusatsu Onsen, how about taking a stroll on the onsen town’s main street, Sainokawara Street? It is the perfect spot to shop for snacks and souvenirs and enjoy delicious local food! In addition to the shops and restaurants, it is also where you can enjoy playing traditional games, such as shooting at a traditional shooting booth!
For more information, refer to our Guide on Sainokawara Street!
Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal (草津温泉バスターミナル)
Your first stop at Kusatsu Onsen will likely be Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal. The facility is more than just somewhere to park the bus. It is equipped with restaurants, souvenir shops, and even a hot spring library (温泉図書館) on the third floor!
The diorama demonstrates Kusatsu Onsen’s historical photos and traditional bathing methods in the library, although English notation is limited.
In addition to local buses, Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal is also where your hotel/ryokan can pick you up if they provide this service (a reservation is usually required to utilize it).
For those who don’t hold a JR pass, we recommend purchasing your JR train ticket back to Tokyo at Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal’s ticket counter. Why? So you can get a ticket with Kusatsu Onsen Station (草津温泉駅) printed!
Just note there is no train station called Kusatsu Onsen (´▽｀*).
If you need assistance planning your visit to Kusatsu Onsen, there is also a tourist counter at Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal.
- Kusatsumachi Hot Spring Library is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm from Tuesday to Sunday. If Monday is a public holiday, it will close the next business day.
- Nagaden Bus Ticket Counter is open from 7:45 am to 5:30 pm.
Kusatsu Confectionary Seigetsudō (草津菓匠 清月堂)
Your visit to a traditional hot spring resort is only complete with traditional confectionery. Where to get it? How about Kusatsu Confectionary Seigetsudō?
Kusatsu Confectionary Seigetsudō was opened in 1923. What is famous there is its scarlet runner bean confectionary range. The scarlet runner bean planted in Kusatsu was originally from Hokkaidō. Because of Kusatsu’s warmer climate, the scarlet runner beans harvested from the field at an altitude of more than 1,000 meters are bigger than those in Hokkaidō. The confectionery maker thus gave it a different and more elegant name, Hanaingen (花いんげん豆).
And don’t underestimate the simple sweetened bean! The Amanattō (甘納豆) was certified by the Governor of Gunma as an excellent product of the prefecture. It was also highly praised by the Japanese Emperor and other imperial family members!
Whether it is Amanattō, Yōkan (羊羹), or Monaka (最中), the traditional sweets just taste differently with scarlet runner bean. And as a Hanaingen specialist, the bean paste in their manjū buns is, of course, made from Hanaingen (with white kidney bean paste blended)!
If you want to try out the Hanaingen before purchasing more for your families and friends, get the smallest package, which contains six beans (in the case of Amanattō). If you love it, you can always purchase more (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
☛ As special as Hanaingen is, we want to point out that those who don’t have a sweet tooth probably won’t find it delicious.
☛ The shelf life of Seigetsudō’s confectionary is short, with a maximum of three days in the summer and five days in the winter. Please check the dates carefully before purchasing.
Seigetsudō’s Cafe Hanaingen (清月堂 カフェ花いんげん)
Seigetsudō also has a cafe attached to its Monzen-dōri Street Shop (門前通り店) close to Yubatake. If you like tiramisu, you will fall in love with their Matcha Tiramisu (抹茶ティラミス). Unlike the typical tiramisu that is chocolate based and contains liquor, Seigetsudō’s tiramisu is made with Dorayaki sandwiched with Hanaingen and matcha flavored cream. The cake is finished with a drawing of a white onsen mark on the green-colored cream, perfect for the dessert served in Kusatsu Onsen!
What goes really well with their dessert menu is a cup of matcha tea made from premium matcha powder from Uji, Kyoto. Like Westerners enjoying a slice of cake with a cup of black tea, when you are in Japan, it is the matcha green tea you would want for afternoon tea (^_-)-☆.
Seigetsudō’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Seigetsudō is open daily except for Tuesdays from 9 am to 5 pm.
- Seigetsudō is just a 1-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal.
- The cafe is open daily except for Thursdays from 9 am to 5 pm.
Shunsai Chaya Yumehana (旬彩茶屋 夢花)
It is probably just around lunchtime when you arrive at Kusatsu Onsen. So where to head for lunch?
If you don’t mind non-vegetarian dipping sauce/broth or can bring your own bottle of vegetarian sauce while traveling, head to Shunsai Chaya Yumehana just in front of the Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal. You can enjoy some delicious soba noodles made with almost 100% soba flour!
While most dishes on the menu aren’t vegetarian, the few dishes that you can order are the ones that have Maitake mushroom (舞茸) as the main dish. Whether it is Maitake Soba/Udon (舞茸そば・うどん) or Maitake Tempura Soba/Udon (舞茸天ぷらそば・うどん), they are recommended!
Why Maitake mushroom? Because, speaking of Gunma Prefecture‘s speciality, it has to be the Maitake mushroom (舞茸). If you really dislike mushrooms, there are also dishes with deep-fried eggplant.
For dessert, get one of the pinto bean tarts called Koyuki-Chan (花豆タルト 小雪ちゃん). Even the locals love it!
Shunsai Chaya Yumehana’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Shunsai Chaya Yumehana is open from
- 10 am to 3 pm
- 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm
- The last order is taken at 8:45 pm.
- Shusai Chaya Yumehana is just a 2-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal.
Yubatake is Kusatsu Onsen’s landmark. The spot where more than 4,000 liter of hot springs gushes out per minute becomes like a field of hot springs, which is why the locals named it Yubatake. In addition, it is a hot spring field where sulfur can be “harvested”.
Regarding the amount of onsen flowing out of the spring source, Yubatake at Kusatsu Onsen proudly claimed to be the highest. You probably won’t be able to find another spot in the world with such an area covered by hot springs! So remember to take a walk on the promenade around Yubatake to examine this rare scene. It will only take 15 minutes (^_-)-☆.
Refer to our article on Yubatake for more information!
Netsunoyu (熱乃湯) and the Traditional Performance Yumomi (湯もみ)
If this is your first time visiting Kusatsu Onsen, the attraction that you have to visit is Netsunoyu (熱乃湯). Why? Because it is where the hot spring town’s iconic show, Yumomi, is held! It is one of the main reasons why tourists visit Kusatsu Onsen.
Yumomi is the name given to the process of stirring high-temperature hot spring water with large wooden paddles. This is a part of the hospitality of Kusatsu Onsen’s bathhouses to bring down the hot spring’s temperature without diluting it with cold water. That way, the customers can enjoy the full medical benefits of Kusatsu’s hot spring!
For more information about Yumomi and other performances at Netsunoyu, refer to our Guide to Netsunoyu and Kusatsu Onsen’s Iconic Show – Yumomi!
Honke Chichiya (本家ちちや)
One of the must-buy souvenirs in any hot spring town is Onsen Manjū, a traditional bean-paste bun. A recommended Onsen Manjū shop is Chichiya for the freshly made Onsen Manjū. Unlike many manjū makers, Chichiya makes their manjūs when the stock level is low, so you are guaranteed that the buns handed to you are freshly made!
The popular Manjū here is White Nishikian Manjū (二色あんまんじゅう（白)). Unlike the usual Manjū that only has one type of bean paste wrapped, the white Nishikian Manjū has both chestnut and smooth red bean paste. Because of the different colors of the chestnut and red bean paste, the shop named it Nishiki, which means two-colored.
If you prefer a simpler taste, get the brown-colored Cha Manjū. The brown color came from the black sugar used to sweeten the bun’s skin. Inside the bun is the mashed red bean paste.
So what is the texture of the buns? The skin of the buns is fluffy. Unlike many traditional desserts sold in Japan, the manjū’s filling isn’t too sweet. So you can have it on its own or with a cup of tea or coffee!
Another confectionary that you might want to give a try is Chichiya Baum (ちちやバウム). It has a texture similar to a castella cake!
Honke Chichiya’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Chichiya is open from 8 am to 6 pm.
- Chichiya is just a 2-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal.
Tip: If the buns are sold out at the main store, you can visit the other two stores in Kusatsu Onsen to try your luck.
Kōsenji Temple (光泉寺)
A religious spot you have to visit when you are in Kusatsu Onsen is Kōsenji Temple. Even if you aren’t interested in visiting a temple, you can still get a wide view of Kusatsu Onsen’s township from the temple’s gate atop the staircases behind the communal bathhouse, Shirahata no Yu (白旗の湯)!
Kōsenji was erected in 721 by Gyōki (行基), the highly-regarded monk in the Nara period who contributed greatly to Nara‘s Todaiji’s Great Buddha!
For more information, refer to our article on Kōsenji (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Yubatake Souan Foot Spa Cafe (湯畑草菴 足湯カフェ)
If you are after a place for something unique and different, how about stopping by Yubatake Souan? The cafe in this hot spring hotel is quite interesting. In addition to the regular table sets, the foot spa cafe also has seats around a foot spa as well as a hand spa!
While the cafe doesn’t serve vegetarian savory light meals, you can still enjoy afternoon tea at Yubatake Souan Foot Spa Cafe. The recommended dessert menu items are those with pinto beans. Why? Because pinto bean is one of Kusatsu’s local specialties!
☛ There are coin lockers available for customers to use.
☛ The best time to visit Yubatake Souan Foot Spa Cafe for couples is probably at night. With the lighting illuminating the foot spa, the atmosphere is beautiful and somewhat romantic!
Yubatake Souan Foot Spa Cafe’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Yubatake Souan Foot Spa Cafe is open from 10 am to 9:30 pm.
- The last order is taken at 9 pm.
- Yubatake Souan Foot Spa Cafe is just a 5-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal.
Shirane Shrine (白根神社)
If you are after some peace and quietness during your time at Kusatsu Onsen, Shirane Shrine (白根神社) north of Yubatake could be the spot you would want to visit. Especially from late April to early May, the shrine is where you can adore the gorgeous flowers of Rhododendrons (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
For more information about the shrine, refer to our article on Shirane Shrine!
Grandefiume KUSATSU (グランデフューメ草津)
If you love Italian gelato and rusk, stop by Grandefiume KUSATSU. The shop mainly specializes in rusks. With more than 10 flavors of rusks on the shelf, it is hard to decide which flavor to bring home! ヾ(≧▽≦)ﾉ.
The best thing about the shop is the all-you-can-eat gelato which only costs 880 yen (440 yen for children)! In addition to the gelato, the cost also includes unlimited rusks and sauce. As long as the shop isn’t packed, there won’t be any time constraints! There is even a small drinks bar where you can make yourself a cup of tea or coffee (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
After you pay at the register and secure your seat on the second or third floor, you can head to the gelato machine before adding toppings from the bar counter.
But just note there are only four flavors for gelato: vanilla, chocolate, yogurt, and a seasonal flavor.
☛ Be careful with the gelato machine. A small pull on the lever can bring you a lot of gelato! Taking a small amount at a time is wiser if you want to try different flavors and toppings.
☛ As delicious as it is, overeating gelato at once can give you a stomachache. As there is no time limit, we recommend you take it slow and warm yourself up with a cup of tea.
Grandefiume KUSATSU’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Grandefiume KUSATSU is open from 10 am to 5 pm.
- Grandefiume KUSATSU, located at the front of the public bathhouse, Ohtaki no Yu (大滝乃湯), is around a 5 to 10-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal.
Kusatsu Mori no Iyashi Hodō Promenade (草津森の癒し歩道)
If you love trekking, there are three trekking courses adjacent to Kusatsu Onsen for you to enjoy. These courses were originally the logging roads in the national forest. But in 2001, the area was opened to the general public.
- Royal Course (ロイヤルコース)
- 1.3km, suitable for everyone
- The promenade is covered by red pine wood chips.
- Visited by the Heisei Emperor and Empress, which is why the course was named the Royal Course
- The waterlilies blossom from late July to early August at Lake Ōyachi (大谷地池).
- The starting point is north of Hotel Village (ホテルヴィレッジ), which is around a 15-minute walk from Yubatake.
- You can utilize the car park and toilets at Tenguyama Resthouse (天狗山レストハウス).
- Cycling Course (サイクリングロードコース)
- 3.84km, suitable for everyone
- Concrete roads, suitable for wheelchairs
- You can enter the course from Hotel Village (ホテルヴィレッジ), Kusatsu Green Palace (草津グリーンパークパレス), and Kusatsu Onsen Onga (草津温泉 音雅).
- If you are unsure, the staff at Hotel Village will point you in the right direction.
- You can utilize the car park and toilet at Tenguyama Resthouse (天狗山レストハウス).
- Yasuragi no Mori Course (やすらぎの森コース)
- 1.3km, suitable for experienced hikers due to its steep slopes
- The closest car park and toilets are located at Roadside Station Kusatsu Undōjayakōen
Tip: Check with Hotel Village to see if they still hold Royal Course trekking tours for their guests.
Sainokawara Park (西の河原公園)
Kusatsu Onsen is located at a high altitude of about 1,200 meters, so the fall foliage season would come earlier than in many parts of the Kantō Region. If you happen to visit Kusatsu Onsen in November, Sainokawara Park (西の河原公園) is one of the top spots to adore the autumn color! In fact, Sainokawara Park is a place you would want to visit any time of the year!
Throughout the year, the park is illuminated after sunset. When the weather becomes more chilled, free foot spas in the park can help keep you warm!
For more information, refer to our article on Sainokawara Park!
Kusatsu Forest Stage (草津フォレストステージ)
Other than the snow season, if you want to be more active during your stay at Kusatsu Onsen, visit Kusatsu Forest Stage. This outdoor recreation facility belongs to Kusatsu Onsen Hotel Village (草津温泉 ホテルヴィレッジ) and offers 42 obstacle courses for you to challenge yourself. If you are a bird lover, you might be able to spot some wild birds in the forest as you walk on the rope or logs.
The courses are divided into Fairy Stage (フェアリーステージ) and Master Stage (マスターステージ). The Fairy Stage obstacles are for anyone weighing less than 130 kg, not just for families. In this zone, the obstacles are easier and may be suitable for anyone seven years old and older. The zip line is probably the most popular attraction as you will be flying above a sightseeing bus if it happens to drive past the park!
On the other hand, obstacles in Master Stage are much harder. The logs you need to walk on may be more than 10 meters above the ground! The Tarzan swing will surely give you some thrill as its zip line is as long as 100 meters!
Time Required at Kusatsu Forest Stage
- 30 minutes for Fairy Stage
- 90 minutes for Master Stage
Kusatsu Forest Stage’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Kusatsu Forest Stage is open from 9 am to sunset from late March to early December.
- The admission cost for non-hotel guests are:
- 3,850 yen for adults for Master Stage
- 2,860 yen for elementary school students for Master Stage
- 1,870 yen for Fairy Stage
- The admission cost for hotel guests are:
- 2,750 yen for adults Master Stage
- 2,090 yen for elementary school students for Master Stage
- 1,540 yen for Fairy Stage
- Kusatsu Forest Stage is around a 15-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal.
- Kusatsu Onsen Hotel Village also provides free shuttle bus services from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal throughout the day.
- Please wait close to the taxi stand on the first floor.
- Refer to HERE for the timetable of the shuttle bus (at the end of the webpage). You can translate the site using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.
Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort (草津温泉スキー場) and Tenguyama Play Zone (天狗山プレイゾーン)
Kusatsu Onsen is also a spot to enjoy powder snow. While there are only five courses, they are extremely long, with the longest being 4,300 meters!
Each of the five courses is subdivided according to its level of difficulty. With various courses available, whether you are a beginner or have some experience in skiing and/or snowboarding, we can assure you that you will have a great time at Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort!
The ski resort is also a spot to enjoy outdoor activities during the warmer months, including a 500-meter-long, 108-meter-high zip line!
For more information, refer to our Guide to Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort & Tenguyama Play Zone!
Roadside Station Kusatsu Undōjayakōen (道の駅 草津運動茶屋公園)
If you plan to drive to Kusatsu Onsen, you can make a brief stop at Roadside Station Kusatsu Undōjayakōen before you travel back to where you are based in Japan. It is where you can find most of the Kusatsu Onsen’s specialities and souvenirs. In addition, the popular specialities of Gunma Prefecture are sold there too! So if you don’t have much time to shop, you can still do all your shopping at Roadside Station Kusatsu Undōjayakōen (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
While most of the dishes on the roadside station’s restaurant’s menu aren’t vegetarian, Maitake mushroom tempura should be available for you to enjoy!
And if you eat eggs, remember to give their Pinto Beans Roll Cake (花豆ロールケーキ) a try because it is the only place you can get it! The deliciousness of this roll cake has been mentioned in many Japanese TV shows and magazines.
You can also make Roadside Station Kusatsu Undōjayakōen your first stop in Kusatsu Onsen as there is a tourist counter there. The staff can help you plan your visit according to what you want to see and do in Kusatsu Onsen, making your trip much more fulfilling!
Furthermore, take a stroll in the park if you have time to spare. The park has a botanical garden where you can admire many alpine plants. From late spring to early summer, the small flowers of the alpine plants are just gorgeous to adore.
And from late October to early November, you will be amazed by the vivid autumn color in the park!
☛ Remember to check with the staff for coupons that can be used in Kusatsu Onsen!
☛ Bring a bottle of Condensed Kusatsu’s Hot Spring (草津名湯の湯) home to receive the medical benefits from the hot spring anytime you want!
☛ The toilet facilities are open 24/7.
Baelz Museum (ベルツ記念館)
Opposite the roadside station, there is a museum dedicated to Dr Erwin von Baelz. Dr Erwin was invited to Japan by the Japanese government in 1876 to work at Tokyo University, as well as a doctor for the royal family. During his time in Japan, he greatly contributed to Japan’s medical development.
Dr Erwin visited Kusatsu in 1878. Astonished by the medical effects of the hot spring there, he introduced Kusatsu Onsen to the world as a world-class hot spring resort. The museum was built to appreciate his effort in bringing Kusatsu to the world’s attention. This is also why a road in Kusatsu Onsen was named after him. You will also find a statue of Dr Erwin in Sainokawara Park.
While English notation isn’t provided to all the exhibits in the museum, there are some old photos of Kusatsu Onsen that you may be interested in. It is free to enter, so it won’t hurt to spend a couple of minutes inside Baelz Museum (^_-)-☆.
Roadside Station Kusatsu Undōjayakōen’s Opening Hours and Access Information
- Roadside Station Kusatsu Undōjayakōen is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.
- Baelz Museum is open from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
- If you take a JR bus to Kusatsu Onsen, get off at Undōchaya (運動茶屋). Roadside Station Kusatsu Undōjayakōen is then a 5-minute walk from the bus stop.
Shiga Kusatsu Kōgen Route (志賀草津高原ルート)
After visiting Kusatsu Onsen, you can drive up to Shiga Kōgen. The 43km-long scenic freeway connecting the two popular destinations is National Highway No. 292, known as Shiga Kusatsu Kōgen Route. The route goes as far as Shibu Onsen (渋温泉郷) in Nagano Prefecture, close to the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park.
Regardless of the season, the view you will get at the highest point of the Japanese National Highway, Shibu Tōge Pass (渋峠), at an altitude of 2,172 meters, will be magnificent!
Especially in the early summer morning, you may probably see the beautiful sunrise scenery reflecting on the sea of clouds and the sky!
Due to the heavy snow, the route is closed for traffic from late November to mid-April. When it is finally open after the snow on the road is ploughed in late April, it is another spot in Japan to experience the snow wall/corridor other than Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route!
For more information, refer to our article on Shiga Kusatsu Kōgen Route!
Events at Kusatsu Onsen
Kusatsu Onsen Appreciation Festival (草津温泉感謝祭)
In addition to Shirane Shrine Sairei (白根神社祭礼), another grand summer festival at Kusatsu Onsen is Kusatsu Onsen Appreciation Festival. It is held on the 1st and 2nd of August each year, which involves the shrine maidens performing rituals with hot springs.
Yunohana Collection Activity (湯の花採取体験)
An interesting activity you can do at Kusatsu Onsen is the Yunohana Collection Activity.
What is Yunohana? It is crystalized hot spring. While you can purchase the dried Yunohana from souvenir shops, if the Yunohana Collection event is on during your visit, we highly recommend that you participate in it as it is the only time of the year when you are allowed to enter Yubatake at the center of the hot spring town!
It is said that only around 7,000 Yunohana crystals can be produced each year. So if you miss out on the grand event in autumn, how about getting a bottle of Yunohana from one of the shops in Kusatsu Onsen for your families or friends because it is so precious?
Note that the event is usually held on a first-come-first-serve basis, with only the first 20 to 30 people being allowed to participate.
From mid-January to February, many igloos are set up around Yubatake. Inside the illuminated igloos, you will find dioramas related to Kusatsu. So if you want to know more about Kusatsu Onsen’s history and culture, visit Kusatsu Onsen at the beginning of the year!
Discover Shima Onsen, Another Famous Hot Spring Town in Gunma Prefecture
You might not be aware of it, but Gunma Prefecture is sometimes nicknamed the Kingdom of Hot Spring. Why? Aside from the famous Kusatsu Onsen, there are a couple more renowned hot spring towns in the prefecture, such as Shima Onsen (四万温泉).
Unlike the touristy Kusatsu Onsen, Shima Onsen has a very natural and traditional setting with some picturesque natural attractions for outdoor activities! Furthermore, a ryokan is rumored to be the stage of the Ghibli movie, Spirited Away!
For more information, refer to our Shima Onsen article!