Kanto Diaries – Kusatsu Onsen

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Nowhere but Japan is it this much fun to get yourself into hot water.

Today’s Kanto Pass excursion took me to Kusatsu Onsen, up in the mountains in Gunma.  I’m a huge onsen fan, and Kusatsu is regarded as one of the best onsen towns in Japan, both for atmosphere and the quality of the water (highly sulphurous – I still smell of it hours later).  I’ve always wanted to go and although it’s almost three hours, I decided this was the only way I could really afford to do it.

I can happily report it lived up to the billing.  Obviously given the main purpose of the trip there aren’t as many photos, and as mentioned yesterday I’m on a crazy schedule while taking these trips so the post will be short.  In brief: incredibly pleasant and charming little town with many beautiful ryokan, small temples and shrines, and mountain scenery.  The water bubbles up out of the ground everywhere, in steaming rivers and waterfalls and pools, including at the famous Yubatake at the center of town.

I visited several baths, including this rotemburo at Sainokawara Park, one of the largest outdoor baths in Japan.  The highlight for me was the Otakinoyu, a fabulous bath/sauna complex which features Awaseyu, a series of small wooden baths with temperatures progressing from 29 to 46 degrees Celsius.  You’re supposed to hit them all in order, but that 46 degree water is too much for me for more than a few seconds.  It also featured surely the hottest sauna I’ve ever experienced, which – if the thermometer was right – was at 95 Celsius (which is… 203 Fahrenheit).  Now that’s hot – it’s good for the body (especially the skin) but more than a few minutes gets pretty brutal.

For a little special bonus coverage, I hopped off the Shinkansen at Ueno on the way back and snapped a few shots of the illuminated cherry blossoms.  We’re getting close to peak, and Ueno is jam-packed with trees that are beautiful day or night.  But it’s not really my scene – massive crowds of tipsy revelers making an unholy racket.

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3 comments

  1. F

    200 degrees F?!

    Boiled lobster anyone?

    Man… I can't even fathom someone hopping in water like that for the sake of good health.

    The pics are lovely btw – thanks. :)

  2. No, no – this is the sauna. Water that temp actually would kill you.

    Even so I was skeptical of that reading, although it felt bloody hot. And I discovered that there are actually extremists who try and set temperature and endurance records, and have gone as high as 140 Celsius. So 95 – while on the high side – is actually considered "moderate".

  3. n

    Sauna Extremist: "Sauna's a serious business. People die."

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