Vegetarian's Japan Guide

The Best Guide to the Public Bathhouses in Kusatsu Onsen

When you visit a hot spring town in Japan, one of the must-dos is obviously bathing. 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 public bathhouses in Kusatsu Onsen. They are all for same-day visitors and the sourcing onsen is from one of Kusatsu’s six main hot spring sources. You can even experience Kusatsu’s traditional bathing method at two of such bathhouses!

Furthermore, the first three communal bathhouses listed below can be utilized even if you have a tattoo!

Kusatsu Onsen’s Main Public Houses, Including the Free Local Ones

Tip: There is a 2-Day Tour departing from Tokyo covering Kamikochi, Tateyama Kurobe Snow Wall, and Kusatsu Onsen. Refer to HERE for more information.

Refer to HERE for information about how to get to Kusatsu Onsen.

☛ If you love to hop between different hot spring facilities, you can purchase a hot spring pass called Choina Santōmeguri Tegata (ちょいな三湯めぐり手形) from any of the three bathhouses. You can enjoy hot springs at Gozanoyu, Sainokawara Open-Air Bath, and Ohtaki no Yu with the pass. The 1,800 yen pass will save you 580 yen. Plus you will get a certificate (完湯認定証) for trying out all three bathhouses at the last bathhouse of your choice!
☛ If you read Japanese or wish to visit Gozanoyu, Sainokawara Open-Air Bath, or Ohtaki no Yu more than 5 times, it would be worthwhile to download the Kusatsu Santō Electrical Stamp Card (草津三湯電子スタンプカード).

Important: Choina Sanyumeguri Tegata can only be used once at each bathhouse. The pass doesn’t have an expiry date.

Kusatsu Onsen’s Six Main Spring Sources

  • Yubatake (湯畑), ph2.08: Yubatake is Kusatsu Onsen’s most famous hot spring source. It is the symbol of the hot spring town. Many of the hotels and ryokans around Yubatake source their hot springs from Yubatake.
  • Bandai (万代), ph1.50: The spring source is located on a slightly remote hill from Yubatake. Starting from Sainokawara Open-Air Bath, Bandai is another spring source that many facilities in Kusatsu Onsen use.
    • Avoid Bandai spring source if you are pregnant.
  • Sainokawara (西の河原), ph 2.07: It is the spring source in Sainokawara Park.
  • Nikawa (煮川), ph2.1: The only place you can enjoy this spring source is at Ohtaki no Yu. The hot spring is almost transparent!
  • Shirahata (白旗), ph2.07: The spring source was discovered by Minamoto no Yoritomo, who started the Kamakura shogunate.
  • Jizō (地蔵), ph 2.05: The spring source has been used to treat eye diseases since the good old days.

Gozanoyu (御座之湯)

Ⓒ 草津温泉観光協会

Because ryokans and hotels’ check-in time is in the afternoon, if you can’t wait to indulge yourself in Kusatsu’s hot spring before you check in, you can stop by Gozanoyu.

Because of the Shirahata Spring Source, the bathhouse later built on the spot has a connection to Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝). In fact, the bathhouse was named “Goza” because the stone that Yoritomo sat on when he bathed at Kusatsu Onsen is where the Gozanoyu is today!

The facility, completed in 2013, is a replica of a public bathhouse that existed until the Meiji period (1868 – 1912). The hot spring at Gozanoyu is said to be effective for neuralgia, burns, and skin soothing.

Gozanoyu has two onsen pools, a Wooden bath (Kinoyu, 木之湯) made of Japanese cypress and a Stone bath (Ishinoyu, 石之湯) made of granite. Each is connected to a different spring source, Yubatake or Bandai. As the bathhouse alternates the bathing area’s gender, you can try out both pools if you visit Gozanoyu two days in a row.

After a nice hot spring session, you can head up to Gozanoyu’s second floor. The grand hall (Ōhiroma, 大広間) offers a complete view of Yubatake. With the breeze coming from the window, it is the best place to cool down on the tatami mats!

Important: One thing to note about Gozanoyu is while coin lockers, shampoo, body soap, and hair dryers can be used free of charge, towels have to be bought if you didn’t bring any.

Yukata Rental at Gozanoyu

The best thing about Gozanoyu is their Yukata Rental Service April to November. The Yukata that can be rented out at Gozanoyu is the type that can be worn outdoors. What can beat the experience of changing into traditional clothing and strolling around an old onsen town like Kusatsu Onsen?

Plus you can get special perks or discounts at some shops and restaurants!

  • The cost of the Yukata rental is 2,500 yen for 3 hours.
    • The cost includes admission to Gozanoyu, Yukata, Yukata belt, Geta (wooden clogs), and a bamboo basket that goes with the Yukata. You can also check in your excess belongings with the bathhouse.
  • The service is available from 9 am to 5 pm. You need to return it by 8 pm on the day.

Gozanoyu’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Gozanoyu is open from
    • 7 am to 9 pm from April to November
    • 8 am to 9 pm from the 3rd of December to March
    • The last admission is 30 minutes before closing time.
    • The grand hall is open from 9 am to 8 pm.
  • The admission cost is
    • 700 yen for adults
    • 350 yen for children from the age of 3 to elementary school students
  • Gozanoyu is around a 5-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal.

Shirahata Spring Source (白旗源泉)


Before heading to the next spot on your itinerary, remember to visit the Shirahata spring source opposite Gozanoyu. Different from Yubatake, you can examine the Shirahata spring source up close.

The milky white hot spring is said to be discovered by Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝) in 1193. This is why it is named the white flag, the same color as the Gen clan’s flag color.

The surname “源” can be pronounced as Minamoto or Gen. It is pronounced as “Gen” when it is used to refer to the clan/family.

Ohtaki no Yu (大滝乃湯)

Ohtaki no Yu is another public bathhouse for day visitors in Kusatsu Onsen. While it is the most expensive one, it is the most modern and well-equipped bathhouse with plenty of toiletries. In addition to the sauna, and indoor and outdoor baths, there is another bathing area at the basement level called Awaseyu (合わせ湯).

Ⓒ 草津温泉観光協会

Awaseyu is where you can experience Kusatsu’s traditional bathing method. The onsen pools there have different water temperatures, with the one at the top, closest to the spring source, being the hottest. It is another way for the locals in the past to cool down from the hot spring water without diluting it with cold water. As the onsen flows down the hot spring pools, it will cool down naturally.

So which tub to get in first? It is said that you get the greatest benefit from the hot spring if you bathe in the one with the lowest temperature first before slowly moving towards the hot spring source.

After bathing, you can enjoy drinks and desserts at the bathhouse’s lounge on the first floor.

Tip: Ohtaki no Yu has a barrier-free private bath called Shakunage (しゃくなげ), which you can rent for 2,000 yen/hour. The private bath can be rented out between 9 am to 7 pm. You can either reserve it at the reception or call to reserve at +81-279-88-2600.

Important: Towels aren’t freely provided, and a rental fee of 250 yen will be charged if you don’t have your own. The fee includes one face towel and one regular bath towel.

Nigoriyu’s Day (白濁の湯)

The 2nd and the 4th Saturday of each month are Nigoriyu’s Day at Ohtaki no Yu.

Instead of using the Yubatake spring source, the Nikawa is used at Ohtaki no Yu. While the hot spring is usually transparent and forms less hot springs mineral deposits (Yunohana in Japanese) in the pipe, the deposits in the pipe still need to be cleaned out regularly.

So if you visit Ohtaki no Yu on these two days of the month, the hot springs flowing out from the tab would be milky, containing a lot of Yunohana accumulated in the pipe over the past two weeks.

And don’t worry. The bathhouse doesn’t use any chemicals during the cleaning process. All they do is pour balls that are attached to a rope into the pipe. So if you want to enjoy the extra mineral-rich hot spring, visit Ohtaki no Yu on Nigoriyu’s Day!

Tip: The hot spring would be the milkiest in the morning.

Ohtaki no Yu’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Ohtaki no Yu is open from 9 am to 9 pm
    • The last admission is at 8 pm.
    • The restaurant is open from
      • 11 am to 4 pm on weekdays
      • 11 am to 7:30 pm on weekends and public holidays.
  • The admission cost is
    • 980 yen for adults
    • 450 yen for children from the age of 3 to elementary school students
  • Ohtaki no Yu is around a 5 to 10-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal.

Sainokawara Open-Air Bath (西の河原露天風呂)

Sainokawara Open-Air Bath is located in Sainokawara Park. If you are interested in bathing in the middle of nature, this is the bath you would want to visit.

Especially during the fall foliage season from late October to early November, Sainokawara Open-Air Bath is particularly popular amongst visitors. You can avoid the crowd by heading there in the early morning or at night.

Ⓒ 草津温泉観光協会
  • In the early morning, there might be a chance that the public bath is covered with steam when the temperature is low. So if you want to experience that, get there as early as possible before the mist disappears in the sun’s heat.
  • The hot spring pools are illuminated at night, giving you a completely different bathing experience.
Ⓒ 草津温泉観光協会

While you might be wondering why even bother to venture out of your hotel to a park to bathe, the experience will just be different.

Sainokawara Open-Air Bath is as spacious as 500 square meters. The onsen pools are so spacious that they could fit hundreds of people at one given time!

Walking on the promenade surrounded by nature, bathing there is almost no different than bathing in the wild nature!

One funny thing about Sainokawara Open-Air Bath is its spring source. Although Sainokawara Park has 1,400 litres of hot springs flowing out per minute, the bathhouse uses the Bandai spring source.

Things to Keep in Mind About Sainokawara Open-Air Bath

  • There is no showering space at Sainokawara Open-Air Bath.
  • The further back you go, the hotter the water is going to be.
  • The Male Open-Air Bath becomes a mixed-gender bath on Friday night from 5:30 pm to 8 pm. Remember to put on your swimming suit or rent out the special bathing wear before you head out of the changing room!
  • Hair dryers are not available at Sanowakara Open-Air Bath.
  • If you need a face towel or a bath towel, you can purchase them from reception.
  • Avoid visiting Sainokawara Open-Air Bath from late morning to afternoon on a hot sunny day. There is no shade to hide under when using the hot spring pool.
  • The stone pavements leading to Sainokawara Open-Air Bath will be slippery when wet.
  • There are bugs around the area as it is an outdoor bath.

Sainokawara Open-Air Bath’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Sainokawara Open-Air Bath is open from
    • 7 am to 8 pm from April to November
    • 9 am to 8 pm from the 3rd of December to March
    • The last admission is 30 minutes before closing time.
  • The admission cost is
    • 700 yen for adults
    • 350 yen for children from the age of 3 to elementary school students
  • Gozanoyu is around a 10 to 15-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal.

Kusatsu Onsen’s Unique Communal Bathhouses (共同浴場)

In Kusatsu Onsen, there are 19 public bathhouses utilized by the locals. Different from the normal public houses, they are administered by the locals and are free to use. But apart from the below three bathhouses, they are not open to tourists.

As these bathhouses are primarily for the locals, no towels, toiletries, lockers, or shower facilities are provided/available. Only a shelf in the changing room is available to use.

☛ If you only have time for one of the bathhouses, we recommend Chiyo no Yu as the hot spring is smoother with the least sulfur smell. Plus, it is another spot in Kusatsu Onsen where you can experience Yumomi!
☛ Usually, the bathhouses receive the least guests between 11:30 am and 1 pm.
☛ The more cloudy the hot spring is, the less hot it is.

Rules to Be Followed at Kusatsu’s Free Communal Bathhouses

  • While money is not charged, a towel is a must to utilize these bathhouses.
  • Be nice and courteous to other guests.
  • Rinse your body with the hot spring before entering the onsen pool. When pouring onsen over yourself, sit down, so that the water does not splash.
  • Before returning to the changing room/area after a hot spring session, dry your body with your towel first.
  • Never try to stop the hot spring from flowing out of the tab.
  • Please don’t use body soap or shampoo at these bathhouses. No foams can be produced with the hot spring at Kusatsu Onsen, anyway.

Chiyo no Yu

At Chiyo no Yu, besides the male and female-only baths, there is also a bath called Jikanyu (時間湯), meaning time hot spring.

It is a traditional way of bathing. If you want to bathe at Jikanyu, you must follow a certain procedure. Everyone will do the below at the same time with a command:

Ⓒ 草津温泉観光協会
  1. Yumomi (湯もみ)
    • You will want to do your best to cool down the water temperature so it won’t be too hot to bathe in later.
  2. Taking off the clothes in the changing room before returning to the Jikanyu bath. Male and female guests are given different time slots for the rest of the steps.
  3. Pouring hot spring on yourself (かけ湯)
    • Your hair will get wet during this step because, in addition to your body, you need to pour water on your head as well. Your hair must be wrapped with a towel or a piece of clothing.
  4. Bath for three minutes (入湯3分間)
  5. Exit the bath

Repeating the above steps up to four times a day is said to be good for atopy, steroid dermatitis, depression and insomnia.

The time when Jikanyu is held is set each day at 9:30 am, 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm. But please confirm with the staff when you arrive, just in case.

Chiyo no Yu’s Male and Female Hot Spring Pools and Nigoriyu’s Day

While Chiyo no Yu’s male and female hot spring pools are small, with a capacity of a maximum of three adults, it still has their merits. Because the onsen pools are small and the hot spring would be down the drain quickly, the hot spring you bathe in is fresher than other hotels/ryokans nearby.

Similar to Ohtaki no Yu, Chiyo no Yu also has a Nigoriyu’s Day. Once every two months, when Yunohana is collected from Yubatake, the mineral deposits from the hot spring are stirred up and mixed into the hot spring during the process. So the onsen in all hot spring pools using Yubatake as a spring source will become milky for a couple of hours.

If you visit Chiyo no Yu on Nigoriyu’s Day, you are lucky! Why? Because the date isn’t announced beforehand! (^_-)-☆.

After you dip into Chiyo no Yu, there is a water fountain in front of the bathhouse in case you get thirsty. While it is just tap water, it is still delicious.

Chiyo no Yu’s Opening Hours and Access Information
  • Chiyo no Yu is open from 5 am to 11 pm.
  • It is around a 1-minute walk from Yubatake.

Shirahata no Yu (白旗の湯)

Completed in 1994, Shirahata no Yu is the biggest and the hottest among the three public bathhouses. Sourcing the onsen from the Shirahata spring source, you will bathe in Kusatsu Onsen’s most cloudy hot spring.

Both male and female bathing areas have two hot spring pools, Nuruyu (ぬる湯) and Atsuyu (あつ湯). While Nuruyu means lukewarm hot water, don’t be fooled by its name. They really should have been named “Hot Water (Atsuyu, あつ湯)” and “Very Hot Water (Chō-Atsuyu, 超あつ湯)”.

The temperature difference between Nuruyu and Atsuyu is especially obvious. Instead of walking straight into the hot spring pool, let your body get used to the temperature by pouring the onsen over your head and body.

To our female readers, if you visit Shirahata no Yu in the early morning, one of the hot spring pools is likely to hold transparent onsen. This is because the hot spring in the pool is fresh, as the pool would have been cleaned in the morning. As time passes by, the onsen will become cloudy again.

☛ Stay still in the hot spring pool. You will feel the water becoming hotter when you move around.
☛ As the changing room and the hot spring pools are in the same space, cover your clothes with a towel so they don’t get wet.
☛ To our male readers, if the Nuruyu is too hot for you, there are a couple of buckets containing cooled hot spring water at the male bath. You can lower the hot spring’s temperature by adding the cold spring water into Nuruyu. Remember to fill the buckets with onsen after you pour out the cold spring. But please refrain from doing the same to Atsuyu.

Shirahata no Yu’s Opening Hours and Access Information
  • Shirahata no Yu is open from 5 am to 11 pm.
    • Please note that the staff will clean the facility from 5 am to 6:30 am.
  • It is around a 3-minute walk from Yubatake.

Jizō no Yu (地蔵の湯)

Ⓒ 草津温泉観光協会

Jizō no Yu is also used for rehabilitation. It is the rarest among all Kusatsu Onsen’s spring sources and gives you the least stinging sensation. Because only four accommodations use Jizō no Yu’s spring source, if you want to try it out, head to Jizō no Yu and experience it for free!

Moreover, Jizō no Yu is another spot in Kusatsu where you can see hot springs flowing out from the ground. The spring source is protected with a guardrail on one side of the square where the bathhouse is located.

☛ As the changing room and the hot spring pools are in the same space, cover your clothes with a towel so they don’t get wet.
☛ There is also a foot spa in the square. Use it as a temperature indicator. If it is too hot for you, Jizō no Yu probably isn’t where you want to bathe.
☛ The square is illuminated at night.

Jizō no Yu’s Legend

The Jizō-dō (地蔵堂) erected in 1808 next to Jizō no Yu has a Me Arai Jizō (目洗い地蔵), which means an Eye-Washing Jizō. At the time, a guy called Tokubee (徳兵衛) was troubled by eye diseases. One night, Jizō Bodhisattva appeared in his dream and said to him, “Treat your eyes with Jizō no Yu. Your eye diseases will be cured”.

Following the instruction of the oracle, Tokubee’s eyes soon became healthy again after he treated his eyes with hot spring water. Many locals also benefited from Jizō no Yu, which is why a Jizō-dō was built.

Please note that the hot spring water isn’t suitable for washing your eyes. A way for your eyes to receive the hot spring’s medical benefits is by covering your eyes with a towel soaked in the onsen.

Or you can utilize the Eye Spa (顔湯) at the square. It is probably the only hot spring facility for the face in Japan. If you put your face against the rectangular opening, your face will receive a good sauna session. If you suffer from dry eyes, you might feel it got better after a while!

Jizō no Yu’s Opening Hours and Access Information
  • Jizō no Yu is open from 8 am to 10 pm.
  • It is around a 5-minute walk from Yubatake.

Discover Other Attractions in Kusatsu Onsen

Click the photo for more information about Kusatsu Onsen’s attractions!

In addition to the public and communal bathhouses we have introduced, Kusatsu Onsen has much more to offer. Whether it is soba noodles, traditional sweets or outdoor activities, such as obstacle courses and skiing, you surely won’t be bored during your time at Kusatsu Onsen!

For more information, refer to our article on Kusatsu Onsen (=゚ω゚)ノ.