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October 30, 2013
Day 27 - Kusatsu Onsen

Kusatsu Onsen (É) is one of Japan's most famous hot spring resorts and is blessed with large volumes of high quality hot spring water reputed to bring various health benefits. The resort is consistently ranked the top onsen destination in the nation by the Japan Hot Spring Association.

Kusatsu is situated at an altitude of 1200 meters above sea level in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture, and along Japan's Romantic Road. It offers skiing in winter and hiking during the rest of the year to be enjoyed in combination with hot spring bathing.

Today's Report
 
Kusatsu Onsen

Yubatake - field of hot water in the center of town

Today after nice pancakes for breakfast at Yshinoya ryokan in Kusatsu Onsen, I took the bus up to the top of Mount Shirane, an active volcano on the outskirts of town. The views from the bus alone were fantastic, be it the forests or the moonscapes near the top. In the winter the road is closed off and the area becomes a very good ski resort, a very unique one at that, because at places toxic fumes are releases by the volcano. Now they have a warning system to keep people from skying where it happens, but some time back two skiers went through a toxic gcloudh: one breathed at the right time and survived - the other one didnft - he just collapsed and died.
But anyway, no skying and no fumes for us today.

Our happy group

We were a nice little group actually. I was joined today by Sean and Stefan from Japan Guide, his wife and a nice little German family based in China, Dora, Jochen and 7 months old Tristan.

The walk started at the rest house at the top of the mountain from where we hiked up to the beautiful caldera lake from where Kusatsu onsen gets its great milky sulfuric water from.

The amazing caldera lake at mount Shirane

From there we walked down for about two hours, passing by colourful bogs, lakes, ponds and through beautiful forests that were still alive with a touch of koyo. We also passed a great big public onsen, which Ifll go and try tomorrow morning.

The snowboard on wheels in the middle is the most insanely dangerous thing I've seen in Japan. How on earth do you brake?!

At the beginning of our walk we were sent off by Gunma chan, the prefecturefs mascot (the 3rd most popular in Japan - what an honour) . But at the end of the walk, we were greeted by him (or her?) as well as by Kusatsu Onsenfs mascot.
The walk ended in the center of the town, at Yubatake (literally gfield of hot waterh), a gushing source of very hot water in the cityfs main square, from where an ingenious system of pipes sends the beneficial water to all the onsen around here. What a better place for my ankle to heal!

Yubatake

At the end of the walk

Today's Program
 
Today's Walk: From Mount Shirane to Kusatsu Onsen

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We begin the day with a short hike to the Yugama Crater Lake of Mount Shirane. Next, we embark on a journey on nature trails which take us through beautiful mountain landscapes, to lovely ponds, and into the famous Kusatsu Onsen Town. Along the way we take a ride on the Shirane Kazan Ropeway, which offers great views of the surrounding peaks and valleys.

At Kusatsu Onsen, we visit the Sainokawara Park where hot spring water can be seen bubbling up to the surface of water pools. Within the park is the Sainokawara Rotemburo, a public open air bath that is one of Japan's largest and wide enough to accommodate more than 100 bathers. Our goal for the day is the fascinating yubatake hot spring source at the town center. Of course, a trip to Kusatsu Onsen has to conclude with a dip in the wonderful waters of one of the many local hot bath establishments.

Date October 30, 2013
Start Time 9:50
Start Shirane Resthouse
Goal Yubatake at Kusatsu Onsen
Distance 10 kilometers (about 5 hours)
Terrain Today's walk goes through steep mountainous terrain. Besides the 10-15 minute ascent to the Yugama Crater Lake, most of the journey proceeds downhill, taking place on gravel paths and boardwalks.
Weather Average daytime high: 12 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit)
Average nighttime low: 3 degrees Celsius (37 degrees Fahrenheit)
Weather Forecast for Maebashi
Access There are hourly buses between the Kusatsu Bus Terminal at the town center and the Shirane Resthouse (ΎR, Shirane Kazan bus stop). The one way trip takes 30 minutes and costs 1100 yen. The 9:15 departure from Kusatsu Onsen arrives at Mount Shirane at 9:45 in time for today's walk.
More details on how to get to Kusatsu
Lodgings It is recommended to spend a night in Kusatsu Onsen, where there are many ryokan and hotels which provide authentic onsen experiences.
Search hotels in Kusatsu through Agoda, Booking.com or Japanican

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Daily Quiz
The deadline for answering the quiz question for day 27 has passed.

Which of the following statements about Kusatsu Onsen is true?

6%   It has the most acidic hot spring waters in Japan
3%   It has the most sulfuric hot spring waters in Japan
82%   It has the largest natural outflow of hot spring water in Japan
3%   It welcomes the largest number of tourists of any resort in Japan
6%   None of the above

The correct answer is: It has the largest natural outflow of hot spring water in Japan

More than 30,000 liters of hot spring water per minute naturally gush out of Kusatsu's sources, more than in any other Japanese hot spring.

Current Standings: (after 30 days)

28 Points: Csabba, AlexanderStankov
27 Points: gladhiola, almoehi, ZoomX2, mikaelus
26 Points: Rabbityama, Proxy707

More about the quiz
 

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