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Enjoy rich hot-spring of Kusatsu Onsen and visit public bathhouses like the locals do.

Kusatsu Onsen(草津温泉), or Kusatsu Hot Spring is one of the most renowned hot-spring resort in Japan, located in the Tochigi Prefecture, about 100km north of Tokyo. Tochigi is rich in hot-spring resorts including Kusatsu, Ikaho, Shima, Minakami and Manza. Above all Kusatsu is highly evaluated with its quality and quantity of hot springs.

You can go to Kusatsu by superexpress trains "Kusatsu" from Ueno Station, not Shinkansen bullet trains from Tokyo Station. It takes two and a half hours to Naganohara Kusatsuguchi Station and transfer to a local bus. 20-30 ride will take you to the center of Kusatsu town. A couple of superexpress trains operate daily.

More frequent bus services are offered which depart from Shinjuku and get to Kusatsu without transfer. It takes about three hours via Kanetsu Expressway and the fare is more moderate than the superexpress train.

In the center of the town, Yubatake(湯畑), or "hot water field" is located which is the symbol of Kusatsu Hot Spring. Yubatake is the source of hot springs that gush as much as 4, 000 liters of hot water per minute among clouds of rising steam.

There are a lot of modern hotels and traditional Japanese style inns with hot-spring and open-air bath. You can visit municipal hot-spring facilities such as Sainokawara Rotenboro(西の河原露天風呂), Otaki-no-Yu(大滝乃湯) and Goza-no-yu(御座之湯) for reasonable prices. Sainokawara Rotenboro or West Riverside Open-air Bath has a amazingly large open-air bath with the length of almost 50 meters. But it is temporarily closed under construction for the renovation by mid-April, 2015.

There are also 18 small public bathhouses in the town and some of them are open for tourists for free of charge. If you visit there, you might encounter local people. Many of them do not baths at home because they can bathe at those bathhouses everyday. Even most of the Japanese tourists do not know but four kinds of hot springs are provided to the bathhouses. Jizo, Shirahata and Chiyo bathhouses are recommended which draw different kind of hot springs. Please remember that visitors are advised to bathe in an appropriate manner in cooperation with the locals who maintain the facilities.

by Hagi

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