by Sam, staff writer of japan-guide.com
2017/06/22 - Mount Shirane reopens for exploration
One week ago to the day, the no entry zone around Mount Shirane's iconic Yugama Crater near Kusatsu Onsen was reduced to 500 meters due to a decrease of volcanic activity in the area. This means that visitors can once again utilize the area's parking lot and resthouse as well as hike up to the observation area from where stunning views can be had of the lake. In light of this recent development, I headed yesterday to the famous mountain to take a look at the situation for myself, and also combined my investigation with visits to a few other of the area's main attractions.
I arrived early in Kusatsu town to catch the day's first Yumomi performance. Held in the elegant Netsunoyu, next to Yubatake, these performances showcase the centuries-old method employed to cool down the town's natural hot spring water without diluting it with cold water and thus attenuating its special qualities. The method involves moving the water around with wooden paddles, and is carried out by a troupe as they incorporate traditional song and dance into the process. The performances are held six times a day from 9:30 to 16:30 with admission costing 600 yen. During the show, visitors are also provided the chance to try Yumomi for themselves.
Following this interesting spectacle, it was time to make the twenty-minute drive up to the Shirane Resthouse area in order to see The Yugama Crater Lake. After paying 500 yen for the privilege of patronizing the area's parking lot, I had a quick nosey around the guesthouse (which contains a gift shop and no-frills cafe), and then began the short ascent to the crater. While certainly not deserted, the trail wasn't teeming with hikers, and this made for a relaxing atmosphere in which to enjoy the view from the observation area in all its glory.
Wanting to take in more of the area's stunning scenery, I decided to hike up to the nearby Karagama Crater after arriving back down at the car park, so I crossed the road and made my way along the quiet hiking trail. The trek up to this crater is slightly more intense, taking around two hours to do a full circle, but the views from the peaks around the crater were certainly worth the effort. In addition to the vivid color of the rocks in contrast with the pristine, mountainous backdrop, I was also lucky enough to get some good views back down on the main town of Kusatsu.
All that hiking left me ravenous, and so after driving back down into the town, my main concern was regarding food. After meandering through Kusatsu's charming streets, I stumbled upon a traditional soba restaurant and ordered a set that included gingered beef on rice and an interesting selection of sausage and vegetables along with the noodles. The food was delectable and provided me with the perfect pick-me-up after a morning of hiking. Satiated, I made my way through Sainokawara Park to the rotenboro for a soak in the middle of nature. A perfect end to a wonderful day of exploration.