Indulge myself with a small luxury : a minitrip to Kusatsu

Have you ever had that feeling that your mind is stuck with your work and you need to get away from the office for a while? Staying home is not an option because then, you will not stay focus on your backlog work.

In such a case, I go to Kusatsu hot spring. It is three hours away from home in Tokyo, and provides everything I need to feel like the Queen of Sabbah: time and a treat in the voluptuous luxury - albeit luxurious in a zen way - of hot springs. Why not going closer? Because closer, you are still in the city. What makes Kusatsu onsen special is precisely the fact that it a place designed to enjoy time, doing nothing, basically. It extracts you away from the urban vicissitudes and brings you in a quiet space, out of the loop of time.

Kusatsu hot spring is a village. It looks like a sky resort fumed up with sulfuric hot water pouring out of the mountain. The air is fresh and crisp, and also a little bit smelly. Some old buildings are still a sore to the eyes but most of them are lovely inns and café and small shops that are welcoming and warm.

My Kusatsu journey started with a lunch with home made soba. I found the small restaurant on the second floor of a traditional house. While I was watching the menu, a neighbor told me this was a good choice so I trusted him and in I went. He was very right. This soba was made from this year’s fresh buckwheat. It was hand made, hand cut, and made with love by a young lady with her husband. What surprised me the most was to melt miso in the sauce. It’s a very special miso paste that I have never seen before: it is mixed with nuts. It is very sweet and soft. The harmony between the soba and the miso is something not to miss and it seems to be a speciality here.

Then I visited the Kataoka Tsurutaro Museum. Kataoka is an autodidact and very artist more famous as a television actor. Kataoka has re-invented Japanese printing tradition: he uses the tradition to create something very modern, sometimes humorous. He draw a radish and writes a small poem on stock option, playing on the homophonic characteristics of the Japanese word for radish and stock options: both « kabu ». Kataoka does not know it but in French, radish means « peanuts », the opposite of the poem’s expectations. So there you go with another insider’s joke.

After a soba, a walk in the mountain and 2 hot springs, I thought I deserved some coffee. So I visited a coffee shop, and trust me, the scones were a perfect match with the coffee. The genuine welcoming smile from the lady, a little bit of cream, a little bit of apple jelly was all I needed to end my day happily…
Sometimes, enjoying time, doing nothing special, wandering small streets, small museums, and relaxing in the hot springs is the ultimate luxury, all you need to reload yourself. Kusatsu is such a place. Oh, and yes, I got that job done.

by Claire