Today we are going to talk about the amazing place named Kusatsu Onsen. This is a natural hot spring town in Japan that has many visitors every year and for a good reason – it is amazing. Because this is a first timer’s guide we are going to talk to you about everything to do with Kusatsu Onsen. We’ll delve into it’s location and take a look back at a little history and maybe even cure an ailment or two you may well have. You may well want to visit this magnificent place after reading this. Welcome to the world of the Japanese hot spring.
Kusatsu is a town in the Gunma Prefecture in Japan. It is located north west of Tokyo and is completely in land. It is surrounded by three mountains, one of which is the active volcano Kusatsu-Shirane. This volcano stands at a whopping two thousand one hundred and sixty metres tall. The town itself is over one thousand two hundred metres above sea level. It is this elevation and the active volcano that give this town its all natural hot spring.
With a population of just over six thousand people the town and resort rely heavily on tourism from around Japan as well as international tourists. The location and elevation of this town is what gives it its constant cooler temperatures. With summer time temperatures rarely reaching above thirty degrees centigrade. And winter temperatures plumeting to minus fourteen and below. Because of the brilliance of the hot spring, though, you can bathe outside all year round.
Kusatsu Onsen has always been popular with the locals and natives of Japan. The town and hot springs popularity can be dated as far back as the Yayoi period in the second century. You can then follow quite easily the places history right the way through from the Kamakura period to the twentieth century. It was in the twentieth century that things began to take a turn from a popular town with the locals to being a world wide tourist destination. One of the biggest influxes was the erection of a skii lift not five years after the end of the second world war. American war veterans staying in Japan for many years after the end of the war helped give birth to its tourism trade.
One of the coolest things about the springs here is that they are used to heat up various buildings in the town. Primary school buildings being the main one of those things. The springs really do have multiple uses.
Kusatsu Onsen as a Health Giver?
It is said that Kusatsu Onsen can cure you of many illnesses or pains you may have. Many of the locals are avid followers of this philosophy. It was popularised to the rest of the world by a man teaching at the University of Tokyo named Dr. Erwin von Baelz. It was he that stated the health benefits of the Kusatsu Onsen spring water to his peers and students whilst teaching. The world then flocked to the place purely for this reason. Many people are said to have experienced their pain subside whilst bathing in the springs. It is said to cure simple things like stiff shoulders. But it is also said to cure more serious things like paralysis.
In addition to the popularity gained from its health benefits it also gained popularity due to the inclusion of the town in books and TV. The skii resort in the winter is also a must see thing. The most popular place, of course, is the main spring bath Yubatake. This is central to the town and possibly the most recognisable image that people think of when they think of Kusatsu Onsen.
To put in to perspective the popularity of this place we should talk about the towns industry. The towns population are ninety percent employed by the tertiary industries. This means that tourism is the thing that keeps the towns economy going. And if it wasn’t for the many travelers and tourists they wouldn’t be financially stable.
Information for Travelers
Now that you know more about the place and its history we should talk about travelling there. The main route is to travel by bus from Tokyo which will take around three hours or so. Allow for more time in the summer though of course. You should arrive in Tokyo via airplane if your sole destination is Kusatsu Onsen. As you read before the town runs on tourism. So, it stands to reason that there are tonnes of things to do here. There is a plethora of hotels including Ryokan. Ryokan is a style of hotel with hot springs running through.
The main destination is the main public bath Yubatake. But there are twleve other public baths to explore. These vary in size and business of course. Another main attraction in the spring and summer is the mountain flowers that surround the cityscape.
Visiting the towns website you can find information on lots of different guided tours around the town. And if you are visiting in winter time don’t forget your skii’s.
Another of the towns attractions is the Balz museum. This museum is dedicated to the German doctor Irwin von Baltz. Here you can learn all about him and his teachings about the health benefits of the springs. Along with a souvenier or two.
Now just a few things to be aware of before visiting Kusatsu Onsen. Or indeed any Onsen. Taking off your shoes is a must! It is culturally rude not to do so. Be aware of nude Onsen, whilst most of them are solely nude you will of course be given a towel. Private bathing is of course allowed in some places if nakedness isn’t something you are fond of. You must have a shower before bathing in the spring. This just ensures the spring remains clean. This one is the most important of them all – relax and enjoy the experience.
So, there you have it, the wonderful world of Kusatsu Onsen. If you are traveling around Japan you may want to take some time out for this place because you will not want to leave in a hurry. This magnificent one hundred percent natural hot spring is possibly the best in the world. The mixture of locals and holiday makers makes for interesting conversation and an eclectic mix of people when you are relaxing. Or, possibly, getting rid of your ailments as you may well believe this spring has the power to do. Either way, enjoy your stay here and don’t forget to take a visit around the town and indeed around the whole entire Gunma prefecture for a lovely time.
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