Kusatsu (草津) is one of the three most famous spots for hot spring (or onsen in Japanese) in Japan. It has been ranked by local Japanese as the best hot spring location for 5 years in a row. Kusatsu is located within the Gunma Prefecture, which is in the northwest of Tokyo.
Hot Spring Water
The high-ranked reputation of Kusatsu came from its natural resource of acidic hot spring water which holds a ph value of roughly 2.1. It is believed that the rich mineral together with the low ph value can be beneficial in killing bacteria of skin wounds, chronic skin conditions and also cure muscle and joint pains.
Yubatake is a tourist spot located at the center of the Kusatsu Onsen Street, known for its big white clouds of fluffy smoke and sulfuric smell. Water from this source is around 57°C at the ph of 2.1. The most recognizable structure is the seven wooden water pipes that are connected to this source. The purpose of the pipes is to create a space for temperature cool down before transporting the hot spring water into public hot spring bath places and resorts.
2) Bandaikou (万代)
Bandaikou produces the largest amount of hot spring water at the speed of around 6,200L per minute. The average temperature of the water is 95°C, with a ph value of 1.7, which is the lowest ph within all sources. During wintertime, hot spring water from Bandaikou will run through pipes and reach up to the area around the Shinkansen railways to melt ice and snow. Facilities including schools and homes, also use the heat from Bandaikou as a natural source for hot water and heater.
3) Sainokawara (西の河原)
Sainokawara is one of the most generous hot spring water sources in Kusatsu. It generates water at a temperature of 45°C with ph 2.1. It is a very rare source and only a few resorts use this source for their hot spring baths. Even the hot spring public bath place in Sainokawara Park uses water from Bandai instead of Sainokawara.
4) Nikawa (煮川)
Nikawa produces water of 49°C at ph 2.1. The clarity of the water explains the nickname of this water source, which is the Beauty Onsen. Water from this source is pulled directly from underground to the bath tank without any artificial processing. Hot spring bath that uses water from this source cannot be found in any resorts or hotel, but only at the Ohtaki No Yu public bath facility.
5) Shirahata (白旗)
Shirahata is distinguished for its white coloured water, at the temperature of 52°C and ph 2.1. Some legendary stories told that this source was found by shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo, which leads to the belief of it being the oldest hot spring source in Kusatsu. There is a free public bath that allows visitors to enjoy water from this source.
6) Jizou (地蔵)
Jizou generates water of 50°C at ph 2.2, with a slightly whitish translucent colour. This water source is rarely found in any hotel but only some small public bath places. Visitors who wish to try out hot spring water from this source can also visit the free public bath right next to the source.
Hot Spring Manner
One of the most popular ways to enjoy such a great natural facility is by staying in an Onsen Ryokan, which means hot spring resort. Depending on each resort the rules might vary, yet, here are the common tips and basic steps to follow when joining a hot spring bath.
1) Many hot spring bath places, no matter public ones or private ones in a resort, do not allow any form of body tattoos. A reason behind such a decision is to prevent pollution to the hot spring water.
2) Most resorts have 2 separate hot spring baths for men and women. Pay attention to the resort’s instructions as it is very common for staff to switch the gender of the bath places during the middle of the night. This is to allow men and women to enjoy both bath places in one visit.
3) Ask if underwear or swimsuit is allowed inside the hot spring tub. Many believe that the materials and colour of any kind of clothing will pollute the water quality.
4) Try not to play or dive your head into the hot spring bath, as it will contaminate the hot spring water.
1) In your own room, change into the given bathrobe. Only bring with you the room key and personal items in a small pouch.
2) When arrived at the hot spring bath area, take off your slippers and put it on the shoe shelf. Then proceed to the shelf with multiple baskets.
3) Choose a basket of your own preference, then remove all clothing and settle them inside the basket.
4) Next, take a shower and wash your hair in the shower area. After that, enjoy the hot spring bath!
Hot spring is the most beloved activities for local Japanese and a very popular experience for foreign travellers. It is a perfect choice for no matter a family trip, a couple of honeymoon travel or a one-person solo short escape.