Kusatsu Onsen 草津温泉

Favorite hot spring of the Japanese

Nestled in the picturesque mountains of Gunma Prefecture, Kusatsu Onsen is a rare gem among Japan's spas. One of Japan's most famous spas, it attracts hot-spring enthusiasts all year round.

Kusatsu Onsen

Kusatsu Onsen


The Yubatake, the city's main attraction

At the heart of this sulphur-scented spa town lies Yubatake, literally "hot water field", a wooden structure that controls the cooling of the particularly hot, acidic water from the Kusatsu Shirane volcanic mountain that feeds the Kusatsu hot springs.  It is built to allow the hot water to flow over a series of wooden platforms, creating a spectacular waterfall. This waterfall helps to cool the water, which then irrigates the 18 onsens in the town at a temperature more suitable for thermal baths.

Kusatsu Onsen boasts the highest water flow in Japan, at 32,300 liters per minute. This incredible flow is due in part to the fact that the town is fed by over 100 water sources.

Yubatake, le champs d'eau chaude

Yubatake ou "champs d'eau chaude" pour refroidir l'eau des sources thermales


The women are in charge of the Yumomi ceremony. Stationed around the pool, they dress in beautiful kimonos and use 1.80m-long wooden boards called yuoke to stir the hot water in a graceful circular motion. The wooden boards absorb the heat of the hot water, gradually cooling the temperature. During the ceremony, participants sing local folk songs called "Yumomi Uta". These songs add a cultural dimension to the ceremony, and are often passed down from generation to generation.

Yumomi adds an authentic dimension to Kusatsu baths and is often performed in public, offering visitors an immersive cultural experience. Some establishments in Kusatsu organize regular Yumomi shows (30 minutes) to enable visitors to participate in or observe this tradition in action.

See also: Onsen, a guide to good manners

Cérémonie de Yumomi

Cérémonie de Yumomi, une méthode traditionnelle pour refroidir d'eau des bains à Kusatsu Onsen.


Nestled in the Japanese Alps, Kusatsu Onsen offers a beautiful backdrop to the surrounding mountains. These include Mount Shirane, an imposing volcano offering hiking trails with breathtaking views. You can also try climbing Mount Yumomi, with its panoramic views of the region. You may be lucky enough to spot a deer or Japanese monkeys on your walk.

Finally, not far away is the city of Nagano, capital of the Japanese Alps and renowned for its ski area. Every winter, skiers flock here to hurtle down the slopes of the Tenguyama and Honshiranesan mountains. Every summer, hiking trails open up on these mountains for nature-lovers.

An opportunity to make the detour from Kusatsu Onsen (1h30 to 2h transport time)!

Related : The best hikes in the Japanese Alps



©Steven Diaz, unsplash

Le temple Zenko-ji de Nagano et la rue Nakamise.

Nagano's Zenko-ji Temple and Nakamise Street.


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