The healing power of Kusatsu Onsen is so treasured that Japan’s first, eighth and 10th shoguns had its thermal water shipped all the way to Tokyo so they could bathe in it. The revered hot spring area in Gunma Prefecture is located just two and a half hours from Tokyo by car.
This hot spring mecca is one of Japan’s three most famous onsen towns along with Gero and Arima Onsen. Kusatsu owes its reputation to the immense quality and quantity of its healing spring water. The acidity is strong enough to kill bacteria on contact as well as treat inflammation.
In Kusatsu, there’s a unique type of hot spring with water sourced from a hot crater lake called Lake Yugama. You’ll find it 1,2000 meters above sea level on top of Mount Shirane (also known as Mount Kusatsu-Shirane). It’s only 30 minutes away from the main tourist area by bus, so definitely add it to your itinerary.
With a moon-like scenery, the white rocks on the mountaintop and the emerald green water of Lake Yugama feel otherworldly. Yugama is also known to be one of the most acidic lakes in the world.
The small town of Kusatsu has a historic feel to it. Simply strolling around the old-world streets will allow you to experience true Japanese culture through the mixture of hot springs, restaurants, local shops, and nature. If you’re looking for some souvenirs, you can find Kusatsu Yunohana bath salts and the famous onsen manju (sweet bean cakes) at several local shops.
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