About Kusatsu Onsen|Detailed history and overview

🕓 2024/1/13

A detailed history and overview of Kusatsu Onsen

箱根強羅公園 (1)

 Table of Contents

  1. Overview of Kusatsu Onsen
  2. History of Kusatsu Onsen
  3. Sightseeing in Kusatsu Onsen
  4. Dining in Kusatsu Onsen
  5. Famous Hot Springs in Kusatsu Onsen
  6. Sightseeing around Kusatsu Onsen


Kusatsu Onsen is one of the most famous hot spring resorts in Japan, blessed with a long history and abundant nature. Known to all hot spring lovers for its abundant hot spring water and its high quality, it is one of the three most famous hot springs in Japan. This beautiful hot spring resort offers not only seasonal scenery, but also a wide variety of sightseeing spots and gourmet food.

This article provides an overview of Kusatsu Onsen, its history, tourist attractions, recommended gourmet foods, and tips on how to enjoy the onsen to the fullest. Let's delve deeper into the charms of Kusatsu Onsen so that all visitors can experience and truly enjoy its attractions.



1. Outline of Kusatsu Onsen

箱根強羅公園 (3)Kusatsu Onsen is one of Japan's representative hot spring resorts located in Gunma Prefecture. It has long been called "Kusatsu in the East and Arima in the West," and is one of the three most famous hot springs in Japan. In particular, the abundance and quality of its hot spring water is well known throughout the country and has attracted many onsen lovers. Kusatsu Onsen's spring water is mainly acidic sulfur spring water, which is gentle to the skin and at the same time effective against various diseases.

At the center of the city are the iconic yubatake (hot spring fields). Yubatake is a sightseeing spot where visitors can see the hot spring water gushing out of the ground up close, and is one of the must-visit places when visiting Kusatsu Onsen. The hot spring water from Yubatake is supplied to many inns and public bathhouses in the Kusatsu Onsen resort area.


One of the most famous onsen specialties is "yumomi," a unique method of stirring the hot spring water with a wooden board to cool it down to the proper temperature. This "Yumomi" is a popular event among tourists and has become a symbolic custom of Kusatsu Onsen. In addition, the hot spring resort offers a wide variety of gourmet foods that make the most of local ingredients and souvenirs unique to the hot spring resort, providing visitors with a wide range of enjoyment.





2. History of Kusatsu Onsen

IMG_1076The history of Kusatsu Onsen is one of the richest and longest in Japan's hot spring culture, with its name having an ancient origin. Ancient folklore, medieval records, and the development of the area from the early modern period to the present day attest to the heavy use of the area. It is said that the hot spring was called "kusamizu" or "kusato" because of the strong hydrogen sulfide odor of the hot spring.

Legend has it that Kusatsu Onsen was discovered by the Japanese warrior Takemikoto during the Yamato period, and that it was rediscovered by Gyoki, a priest of Sugawara Temple in Yamato Province, during the Nara period (710-794). Legend has it that Minamoto no Yoritomo discovered the hot spring in the Kamakura period (1185-1333) during his Makigari hunting expedition. Kusatsu Onsen is known as one of the three best hot springs in Japan, and in the Edo period (1603-1867), it was ranked as the highest Ozeki in the Onsen ranking system. During the Kyoho period (1600-1868), its value was so highly regarded that the 8th shogun, Yoshimune, had its hot spring water transported to Edo (Tokyo).

Numerous historical figures have visited the spa, including Rennyo, the head priest of Honganji temple of the Jodo Shin sect, in 1472, and Toshiie Maeda and Princess Asahi, the sister of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1600). There is an anecdote that Hideyoshi Toyotomi advised Ieyasu Tokugawa to take a hot-spring cure.

Another feature of Kusatsu Onsen is a traditional bathing method called "Jikan-yu," which was established between the end of the Edo period (1603-1868) and the Meiji period (1868-1912). This is a full-fledged bathing method that uses the spring water as it is, and the custom is to insert a 30-cm-wide long board into the bathtub and stir the water while singing Kusatsu-bushi (a traditional Japanese folk song). Many cultural and historical figures have visited and loved this hot spring resort.




3. sightseeing in Kusatsu Onsen


IMG_1041Yubatake is the heart of Kusatsu Onsen and is located in the center of the hot spring resort. It is a must-see spot for many visitors, as they can observe the hot spring water gushing to the surface of the ground up close. The hot hot spring water gushing from the yubatake is supplied to the many inns and public bathhouses in the area.IMG_1067
The characteristic scenery of Yubatake is its gushing hot spring water and the steam rising from it. These are widely known as the symbolic sights of Kusatsu Onsen, and are one of the main attractions for visitors to feel the emotion of the hot spring resort. Especially in winter, the steam creates an even more fantastic atmosphere that attracts visitors.



IMG_0928Visitors can experience the traditions of Kusatsu Onsen firsthand by watching the Yumomi show. The traditional method of lowering the temperature of the hot spring water by stirring it with a large wooden board will be demonstrated. This method is intended not only to lower the temperature of the hot spring, but also to increase the oxygen content of the water, providing a healthier and more pleasant bathing experience.

The Yumomi show is part of a larger effort to provide tourists with an opportunity to experience the culture and history of Kusatsu Onsen. The show features yumomi to the tune of the folk song "Kusatsu yo toko ichidemo ichido ichidemo kudasai," and visitors can watch the powerful performance up close and personal.

Nishi-no-Kawahara Park

IMG_1112 One of the park's main attractions is one of the largest open-air baths in Japan. This open-air bath offers visitors the opportunity to soak in the vast natural surroundings while enjoying the seasonal scenery, providing a truly special experience of becoming one with nature. At night, the park's hot springs are illuminated, further intensifying the magical atmosphere. This illumination is especially beautiful in the winter when it snows, adding a romantic touch to the quiet evenings in the hot spring resort area.



IMG_0962This all-cypress pavilion is located right next to Yubatake, one of the symbols of Kusatsu Onsen. This footbath facility is open to visitors free of charge, allowing them to enjoy the historic atmosphere of Kusatsu Onsen while enjoying the view of the hot spring resort.

The footbath at Yumemuri-tei is a rare place to experience the high temperature and highly acidic spring water of Kusatsu, allowing visitors to easily enjoy the benefits of the hot spring. This facility was modeled after the Matsunoyu, a public bathhouse that existed here in the Edo period (1603-1867), and is open 24 hours a day, making it an easy stopover for early morning or late evening strolls.
The facility is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


草津温泉 大滝乃湯【草津三湯】Otaki-no-yu is one of the most popular one-day spa facilities in Kusatsu Onsen, using the Nigawa source, which is known as "beauty water. As the name implies, this facility is known for its hot spring water that is highly effective for beautifying the skin, and many visitors come to enjoy the benefits of this hot spring.

One of Otaki-no-yu's main attractions is the opportunity to experience the traditional "combined hot spring" method. This method maximizes the benefits of the hot spring's components while providing bathers with a comfortable bathing experience.


箱根強羅公園-2Yugama is a crater lake approximately 300 meters in diameter and 30 meters deep, located at the summit of Kusatsu-Shiranesan, and is characterized by its emerald green, cloudy water. This beautiful color is caused by the iron ions and sulfur contained in the hot spring water gushing from the bottom of the lake, which reflects only green light when sunlight falls on it. The contrast with the white mountain surface creates a breathtaking beauty.


箱根強羅公園 (1)-1Mandarado is located in the Kusatsu hot spring resort area and is a place where visitors can enjoy traditional target shooting. At this place, visitors can try their hand at target shooting for 500 yen for 10 rounds, and win various figure prizes according to their points. It features a free-flowing style of play that can be enjoyed by families and couples alike, and is a perfect activity for a break at Kusatsu Onsen! The game is available at the Kusatsu Onsen.

■ Kusatsu Glass Storehouse Kusatsu Glass Storehouse

箱根強羅公園 (2)-1This studio deals in glassware, and its original glass works, which express the colors of Kusatsu Onsen, are recommended as souvenirs. Visitors can also try their hand at making glass beads and blowing glass.

 ■ Shirane Shrine

箱根強羅公園 (3)-1Shirane Shrine is located on a hill overlooking the hot spring resort, near the hot spring fields of Kusatsu Onsen. The shrine is dedicated to the volcano Mt. Shirane, and was originally located at the top of the mountain, but has since been moved to a new location near the hot spring resort area. The shrine is also known for its beautiful rhododendrons and is revered as the guardian deity of Kusatsu Onsen, and during the Ujigami Festival on July 17 and 18, young men dressed in white carry a portable shrine through the town.


Nishi-no-Kawahara Street

IMG_0943Nishi-no-Kawahara-dori Street runs from Yubatake (hot spring fields) in Kusatsu Onsen to Nishi-no-Kawahara Park, and is the main street bustling with tourists. Various stores line the street, including izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) selling local gourmet foods and soft-serve ice cream made from local ingredients, popular cafes offering hot dogs and sandwiches made from special bread, stores where visitors can sample a wide variety of karinto (sweet bean curd), manju (sweet bun) stores selling traditional hot spring souvenirs, and specialty stores selling beautiful glassware. The shops are all located in the same area.




4. gourmet food in Kusatsu Onsen

Yakitori Shizuka

IMG_0955 Yakitori Shizuka in Kusatsu Onsen is a popular restaurant that serves fresh yakitori and is located right next to Yubatake. Open from 3 p.m. to night, the yakitori is exceptionally delicious while enjoying the beautiful view of Yubatake. The skewers are carefully grilled in the store, and you can enjoy a wide variety of dishes such as Negima, Hina-Kawa, Sunagimo, and Tsukune.

Yamabiko Onsen Manju

IMG_0881Located near Yubata in Kusatsu Onsen, Yamabiko Onsen Manju is a Japanese confectionery popular for its "deep-fried manju," a variation on onsen manju. These deep-fried manjus have an exquisite flavor of crispy batter and smooth red bean paste, with just the right amount of saltiness to enhance the sweetness. The vertical building and large signboard are landmarks of the shop, making it a perfect place to enjoy eating while admiring the hot spring fields.

 Matsumura Manju

IMG_0940Founded in 1945, Matsumura Manju is a long-established shop known for its onsen manju that continues to preserve its traditional taste. The thin dough is flavored with brown sugar, and the homemade sweet bean paste is characterized by its smooth and elegant sweetness. You can eat them on the spot, and the building with its atmospheric mosaic painting is a landmark.

 Tamaya Shoten


IMG_0870Tamaya Shoten is a liquor store located right in front of Yubatake, selling a wide variety of locally brewed sake, popular as souvenirs and for evening drinks at the inn. It also sells large dumplings roasted over a charcoal fire, and cooking them in front of the eaves of the building is a fun visual treat. The dumplings are crispy on the outside and glutinous on the inside, and are available in two types of sauce: walnut miso and soy sauce flavored (with sweetness).

Kusatsu Onsen Pudding


IMG_1120 (3)Kusatsu Onsen Pudding is a pudding specialty store in a white-walled building on West Kawahara Street in Kusatsu Onsen, and is especially popular for its "Night Yubata Pudding. This pudding has a beautiful purple color made with butterfly pea tea, and when lemon juice is poured over it, the color changes for a fun experience. The "Tamago Pudding" is also popular and often sells out in the morning, so an early visit is recommended. There is also a photo spot inside the store, where you can enjoy the beautiful pudding that looks great on social media.



IMG_4973Yoritomo is a popular pickle shop in Kusatsu Onsen, but it is especially well known for its onsen tamago (hot spring eggs). These eggs are served in cups with lids, along with dashi (soup stock) sauce, making them convenient for standing around eating. The shop also offers yukemuri konnyaku, amazake (sweet sake), and other products perfect for eating on the go.

Terakoya Hon po


IMG_4974Terakoya Honpo is a rice cracker shop located on Kawahara-dori, west of Yubatake, with 40 stores nationwide. In particular, its wide variety of "Nure Okaki" (wet rice crackers) are popular and ideal for eating while walking around. A variety of flavors are available, such as sweet soy sauce, wasabi soy sauce, and mayonnaise topping, and you can enjoy the soft and new texture.



5. famous hot springs in Kusatsu Onsen


Otaki-no-yu is a one-day spa facility that uses the Nigawa source, known as "Bijin-no-yu," a particularly precious hot spring in Kusatsu Onsen. Here, visitors can experience the traditional "combined hot spring bath" in which the components of the hot spring are naturally cooled and adjusted to the proper temperature. In addition, special "cloudy white water" can be enjoyed twice a month. The facility also offers a full range of large baths, open-air baths, and private baths, providing visitors with a rich hot-spring cure experience.


 Shirohata no Yu

箱根強羅公園 (4)Shirahata-no-yu is a public bathhouse with a rich history, said to have been discovered by Minamoto no Yoritomo, and is located in the center of Kusatsu Onsen, very close to Yubatake. This onsen uses 100% natural hot water from the Shirahata source and is open to visitors free of charge. The attraction of this hot spring is that visitors can enjoy a sense of history and at the same time enjoy the hot spring in a casual setting.



箱根強羅公園 (5)The Oza-no-yu is a facility that strongly reflects the tradition and culture of Kusatsu Onsen, and was reconstructed on the model of one of the public bathhouses that existed in the Yubatake area from the Edo to Meiji periods. Inside, there are two bathhouses, "Kinoyu" and "Ishinoyu," where two different types of spring water from Yubatake and Bandai are provided on a daily basis. This facility allows visitors to experience and compare the different spring waters.


 Jizo no Yu

IMG_1081 (1)Jizo no Yu is a public bathhouse that uses 100% natural hot spring water from the Jizo source and is characterized by its slightly cloudy water. Managed and used by local residents, this public bathhouse is an ideal place to visit between strolls in Kusatsu Onsen Town. There is also a footbath available free of charge 24 hours a day, making it easy to enjoy the benefits of the hot springs.



6. gourmet food in Kusatsu Onsen

Shirane-san (Mt. Shirane)

箱根強羅公園 (7)Shirane-san, easily accessible from Kusatsu Onsen, is an ideal spot for hiking and trekking. Particularly famous is Yugama, a mysterious emerald green lake, which can be visited from spring through fall. Although the surrounding roads are closed during the winter, visitors can enjoy the alpine flora and the moon-like sight of the Kuso Riverbanks during the rest of the year!


Kusatsu International Ski Resort

箱根強羅公園 (8)Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort was established in 1914 and is one of the oldest ski resorts in Japan. Over time, various slopes and facilities have been developed for both beginners and advanced skiers. In winter, visitors can enjoy skiing and snowboarding at Kusatsu International Ski Resort. There are courses for both beginners and advanced skiers, and the quality of the snow is good, attracting many winter sports enthusiasts. After skiing, visitors can relax in the hot spring baths.


Kosenji Temple

IMG_1107Kosenji Temple is a temple of the Toyozan School of Shingon Buddhism, located only a minute's walk from Kusatsu Onsen's Yubatake. The temple's deep connection with Kusatsu Onsen can be traced back to a legend about the opening of the hot spring. According to the legend, the temple was founded by Gyoki Bodhisattva, and has been worshipped by many people throughout its long history.

In particular, "Late Rising Buddha," who came into the world after 300 years, is enshrined in the precincts of Kosen-ji Temple. Its mysterious presence attracts many worshippers, and the temple is always crowded with people seeking "late blooming mikuji" and "late blooming good luck charms.


 Old woman's waterfall

箱根強羅公園 (9)Omesen Waterfall is one of the spectacular beauties of nature near Kusatsu Onsen. Located in the southeast of Kusatsu Town, the waterfall has a powerful 25-meter drop. Its name "Omusen" means "old woman hermit," and the water cascading down the red rock face is as delicately and mysteriously beautiful as if it were a hermit who has lived a long time.

Particularly not to be missed is the giant katsura tree that exists near the waterfall and has been selected as one of the "100 Giants of the Forest. The tree boasts an overwhelming presence, with a height of 35 meters and a trunk circumference of 6.7 meters, and will make visitors feel the greatness of nature. The 100 Giants of the Forest" refers to the trees selected by the Forestry Agency in 2000 to represent the national forests. This is part of an effort to preserve the natural environment as well as to pass on Japan's rich natural heritage to future generations.



7. final remarks

Kusatsu Onsen is one of the three most famous hot springs in Japan, known for the abundance and quality of its water. This article introduces the charms of Kusatsu Onsen through an overview, history, sightseeing, gourmet food, and sightseeing in and around the famous hot spring. This hot spring resort has been loved by visitors since ancient times, and sightseeing highlights include Yubata (hot spring fields), Yumomi shows, and Nishi-no-Kawara Park with its open-air baths. Visitors can also enjoy gourmet foods made from local ingredients. Visitors can experience the nature and culture of Kusatsu Onsen, as well as the traditional bathing methods, which will soothe both body and soul. La.