Joe's Japan Travel Journal
by Joe, staff writer of

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2014/08/20 - Kusatsu Onsen Beautification

The Yubatake at Kusatsu Onsen

This week the Japan Guide team visited one of Japan's most well-loved onsen resort towns, Kusatsu Onsen, in Gunma Prefecture. In the last few years, Kusatsu has seen a number of renovation and construction projects in and around the central Yubatake and Sainokawara Park areas as a part of a campaign to improve the resort town's tourism and public spaces.

The newest such improvement to be completed is a new public outdoor plaza that was finished in the spring located at the south end of the Yubatake area. Formerly a parking lot, the new space offers pedestrians an open area away from the road for strolling or sitting on stone steps or grassy areas while enjoying a view of the hot spring field.

Recently-finished terraced plaza for pedestrians
The new plaza at night

In the summer, ryokan guests and locals often enjoy nightly saunters around the Yubatake in yukata taking in the illuminated views of the hot spring field and surrounding buildings. The town's beautification projects seem aimed at making these experiences even more memorable and pleasant for tourists.

Girls wearing summer yukata walk past a ryokan
A couple taking a selfie in front of the Yubatake

Other recent construction projects in Kusatsu have included the opening of a new bath house named Gozanoyu near the Yubatake in 2013, and the planned renovation of the popular Netsunoyu bath house, which is scheduled to begin in October 2014 and finish in late 2015 or early 2016. The redesign will feature a more traditionally styled facade.

In recent years, several buildings in the central part of town have been redesigned to more closely match the aesthetic of traditional onsen towns, including changing the color palettes of signage or building exteriors from brighter colors to more understated browns and earthy colors. The changes add to the nostalgic, frozen-in-time atmosphere of the town.

The Yubatake in daylight with the soon-to-be-renovated Netsunoyu bath house on the right
The Yubatake and new plaza with the recently-opened Gozanoyu bath house on the left
Hot spring water pouring down the Yubatake's wooden conduits

A few minutes' walk from the center of town at Sainokawara Park, we also found several other new renovation projects underway or recently completed. Among them was a new foot bath fed by the hot spring water which naturally percolates to the surface in the area. We also noticed improvements being made to the park's pedestrian walkways. Pipes carrying hot spring water are being installed under the foot paths which will allow them to remain relatively snow-and-ice-free in the winter (a technique used at onsen resorts throughout Japan's snowy regions).

Sainokawara Park, including a new foot bath on the right
Hot spring water pipes being installed under footpaths at Sainokawara Park
A boy inspecting hot spring water gushing naturally from the ground at Sainokawara Park
Tourists enjoying a rickshaw ride
Onsen tamago (eggs boiled in hot spring water)
Customers line up to try some onsen manju
The falls and pool at the bottom of the Yubatake

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List of Posts:
2019/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2019
2018/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2018
2017/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2017
2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/03/24 - Setouchi Triennale 2016
2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/12/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Mitake
2015/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Takao
2015/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/11 - Autumn Color Report: Fukuroda Falls
2015/10/30 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2015/10/22 - Autumn Color Report: Northern Alps
2015/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Northern Alps
2015/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2015/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai
2015/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Towada
2015/10/13 - Autumn Color Report: Hakkoda
2015/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu
2015/10/06 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2015/04/14 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Yoshino
2015/04/13 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Miharu
2015/04/08 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Matsumoto Report
2015/01/29 - Crabs, Peonies and Castle Cruises in Shimane

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/12/16 - Seasonal Illumination: Osaka
2014/12/15 - Seasonal Illumination: Kobe Luminarie 2014
2014/12/09 - Seasonal Illumination: Ashikaga Flower Park
2014/12/05 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Nara
2014/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Hakone
2014/10/29 - Autumn Color Report: Shima Onsen
2014/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2014/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu
2014/10/07 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/09/26 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/08/20 - Kusatsu Onsen Beautification