Kusatsu (草津) is a great place for a short road trip to escape from the busy business center in Tokyo. Within a 4 hours driving distance, it can bring you a beautiful power spot of nature for sightseeing and relaxation. It is a classic choice to include Kusatsu into a 5 to 7 days Tokyo trip, which describes the basic itinerary for my April 2020 trip to Tokyo.
After several pieces of research about transit, I found out that transportation from Tokyo to Kusatsu is very accessible. The cheapest and most convenient method is to travel by train and then a bus, which takes around 3 hours and around CAD70. Plan your trip before departing, as there are only 2 to 5 trains to Kusatsu every day. When everything is ready, grab your luggage and start your journey. Board the Limited Express Kusatsu (特急草津) train from Ueno Station (上野駅), then get off at Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station (長野原草津口駅)”. Foodie alert! This trip on the train takes around an hour and a half, buying a bento at the station can save your stomach from growling. After getting off the train, exit the station and transfer to the JR Bus “Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi to Kusatsu Onsen (長野原草津口駅 => 草津温泉)”, then finally get off at Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal Station(草津温泉).
When you got off the JR bus, look for the resort’s name card for pick-up service. Almost all hot spring resorts have a free pick-up service from the closest public transport station. In Kusatsu, pick-up services are usually available at the Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal. Depending on the resort, staff may provide private car pick-up or a scheduled bus pick up service. For private car pick-up, make sure to make an appointment with the resort before arrival.
There is an abundance of hot spring resorts in Kusatsu and each of them has its own charming features. Filtering with some preferences of me and my two travelling buddies, we picked “Ryoukan Tokinoniwa (湯宿 季の庭)” as it fits all our needs. They have a 1 night 2 meal (dinner and breakfast) plan, choice of a 3 room suite (bedroom, bathroom and living room), in-room private hot spring bathtub, traditional Japanese style interior design, and most importantly within our budget of 250CAD per person.
Money-saving tips: Reserving on the resort’s official homepage is always cheaper than booking through an agency, yet Japanese reading and writing skill is needed to fill in all reservation forms correctly.
A lot of Japanese visitors love to buy Onsen Manju (温泉饅頭) as souvenirs for their family and friends. Onsen Manju is a palm-sized classic Japanese dessert shaped like a steam bun, with an outer skin of a very thin bread filled by sweet red bean paste. Matsumura Manju (松むら饅頭) is the most famous store to buy this foodie souvenir in Kusatsu. Their red bean paste filling is smooth and moist but leaves you with a few red bean chunks to enhance the overall texture. The skin was prepared with black sugar and flour, but the luscious flavour from the sugar will not overpower the red bean paste. It cost around CAD10 to buy a 9 pieces gift box, which is definitely a great price point for such a delicious snack.
After settling with all the dull work of booking rooms and doing transportations, in the next travel article, we will, as expected, continue to dig deeper into various foodie attractions within Kusatsu.