Having spent a day in the great outdoors, it is time to relax in one of Kusatsu’s natural hot spring baths, commonly known as onsen.
Bathing has been a major part of Japanese culture since antiquity, and Kusatsu Onsen’s baths are a fantastic chance to dip your toe (and more!) into this essentially Japanese cultural experience. Do not just take our word for it either—Japan’s major travel agents have voted Kusatsu Onsen the number-one onsen in Japan for over sixteen years in a row.
The bountiful waters drawn directly from the Yubatake hot spring fields naturally contain acid, sulfur-containing aluminum sulphate, and chloride, with pH values between 1.7 and 2.1, and temperatures varying between 51 and 94 degrees Celsius. An iron nail placed in the hot spring would be reduced to rust in just nine days. But do not worry, the centuries-old yumomi method of cooling the water makes it perfectly safe for everyone to enjoy, and the accompanying ceremony is now a local attraction, with regular demonstrations enlivened by folk songs.
The rich mineral content of Kusatsu’s waters have become known for their metabolism-boosting effects and as a natural way to promote more beautiful skin. The hot springs are also said to be beneficial for a variety of conditions, including muscle pain, bruises and sprains, fatigue recovery and more. Said to cure basically everything except lovesickness, you are bathing in good company—even the leaders of the Tokugawa shogunate during the Edo period (1603–1867) ordered barrels of hot spring water to be delivered to Edo Castle.
Otakinoyu gives bathers a chance to experience the traditional awase-yu bathing culture, where several baths are taken in turn, each hotter than the last. In the recently renovated bath, the wooden pillars reach up to the ceiling, resembling tall trees standing in the mist as the hot spring steam wraps around them, giving the feeling of being outdoors.
Known as the “hot spring of beauty,” Otakinoyu is just minutes from the Yubatake hot water fields of Kusatsu.
Drawing its water from the Nikawa hot spring source with acidic sulfur, Otakinoyu’s 100% natural free-flowing water baths have long been beloved by Japanese men and women alike. The awase-yu baths with gradually escalating temperatures have been popular since ancient times and may be the secret to clear and healthy skin.
These spa waters are said to be beneficial for skin complaints and disorders as well as general skin beautification, making Otakinoyu an ideal spot to indulge in a little self-care. The onsen has special “cloudy water” days on the second and fourth Saturday of each month when the hot spring deposits are cleaned from the piping mechanisms, resulting in spring water densely filled with enriching minerals.
Otakinoyu offers various baths partitioned for men and women, with its famed awase-yu baths varying in temperature from a relatively cool 38 to a steamy 46 degrees Celsius. These temperatures are maintained not by dilution but by natural cooling, which allows bathers to become accustomed to the naturally high temperature and acidity of the hot spring waters. The awase-yu bathing style has been a huge draw for Japanese travelers for centuries and is quite rare even in Japan, so be sure to experience it for yourself.
Other baths include the vast great bath and open-air bath, both partitioned for men and women, as well as hot water cascades that mimic the natural flow of waterfalls.
Otakinoyu also offers private “Shakunage” baths for rent at 2,000 yen per hour, available for couples and families to bathe together, and these private baths are barrier-free for all to enjoy.
Otakinoyu doesn’t just offer bathing but a full resort experience, as visitors to the onsen are also able to relax in the lounge café with premium Japanese-style ice cream, try Kumazasa udon at the Yunohana restaurant, or find that perfect gift at the souvenir shop.
Other facilities include a sauna and massage rooms, as well as relaxation rooms for families and private functions available from 1,000–2,000 yen per hour.
With such a wide range of bathing, cuisine, and relaxation options on offer, Otakinoyu is a luxurious Japanese onsen experience that is sure to be the highlight of your journey to Kusatsu Onsen.
Opening hours: 9:00 am–9:00 pm (entry closes 8:00 pm)
Prices: Adults 900 Yen, children 400 Yen (ages 3–12); towel sets are available for 250 Yen
Inquiries: Oazakusatsu 596-13, Kusatsu Town, Agatsuma County, Gunma Prefecture 377-1711
Torrents of milky blue waters descend from the volcanic peaks of Mount Shirane and burst into Kusatsu Onsen’s Yubatake onsen fields, creating clouds of steam that cover the town in a misty haze. This boiling water is then tamed by a centuries-old system of stirring the waters using paddles, in a ceremony called yumomi; cooling it just enough for visitors to take a dip and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the hot springs.
Considered to be one of Japan’s three most important onsen resorts, Kusatsu boasts so many bathing facilities you’ll be spoiled for choice.
The hot spring’s curative effects are also the stuff of legend. It is said that the waters at Kusatsu Onsen are able to cure any illness but lovesickness. The town’s hot springs are also unrivaled in quantity, boasting the largest output of natural hot spring waters in Japan. With over 32,000 liters gushing out per minute, the waters do not need to be diluted or reheated. High in acidity, bacteria and fungi cannot survive in these piping hot waters, giving it an antibacterial effect that has furthered the belief in the hot springs’ therapeutic effects over the centuries.
As one of Japan’s three most famous hot spring resorts, Kusatsu boasts a vibrant traditional onsen town atmosphere so you can experience centuries of Japanese tradition and culture intertwined with the hot springs.
Between baths, stroll down the town’s main street basking in the retro romance as you browse shops laden with local souvenirs, glassware crafts, and more. Drop by one of the many charming confectionary shops to sample tasty wagashi sweets that have been steamed in the therapeutic waters. Enjoy these warm, sweet buns as you stroll the narrow streets around the town, taking in the historic buildings swathed by swirling steam, a sight all the more remarkable when illuminated at night.
To make your visit even more authentic, rent a yukata at Gozanoyu and don it for your outing. A dressing service is available and you do not need to prepare anything yourself! Circle Yubatake and be enveloped in steam as you take in the view of milky blue waters gushing forth through the old pinewood tubs. Free footbaths let you to rest your feet while you enjoy the scenery.
To discover more of the wonders that await you at Kusatsu Onsen, be sure to explore the rest of this website. Here, you’ll find countless tips on where to eat, drink, and stay to find the perfect spots for your visit to Japan’s original resort town. There are also sightseeing suggestions for areas around the town to make the most of your stay here, and examples of popular souvenirs for that special someone at home. If you want to know more about Japanese bathing customs, there is a step-by-step guide available on the website, as well as plenty of information upon arrival to guarantee you turn into an onsen pro.more
Attention of the bathing
To make sure you enjoy the baths safely, although the baths have therapeutic effects, it is important to note that your body will sweat more while enjoying them, perhaps more than you may realize. Drink plenty of water between baths to stay hydrated—which you can do with Kusatsu’s own natural mineral waters for an extra dose of well-being. Also, the acidity of some of the waters at Kusatsu Onsen is strong enough to cause silver to develop an instant patina, so be sure to remove all your jewelry before you bathe.
Finally, for guests from overseas, rest assured that the vast majority of Kusatsu Onsen inns and bath facilities are welcoming to those with non-gang-related body art. Travelers with tattoos can enjoy the healing hot waters here without any worries, and join the approximately three million annual visitors to this world-class hot spring resort.
We welcome you to Kusatsu Onsen,
and we are sure you will be back time and time again!