Manza Onsen (万座温泉) is a hot spring resort town located 1800 meters above sea level, high up on the slopes of Mount Shirane at the northwestern edge of Gunma Prefecture. Its highly acidic waters are obtained from Mount Shirane and are among the most sulfuric in all of Japan. They are known to provide various health benefits through improving metabolism and blood circulation.
Manza Onsen has several hotels and ryokan with outstanding hot spring baths. In particular, the open air baths are a treat with their excellent waters and tranquil setting. Guaranteed snow in the winter makes the town one of the best places near Tokyo to enjoy an outdoor bath in the snow. The following is a list of recommended ryokan and hotels that open their baths not only to staying guests but also to daytime visitors:
Daytime Hours: 10:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30) Daytime Admission: 1000 yen Overnight Stay: From 7,000 yen per person including 2 meals
The indoor and outdoor bath areas of Nisshinkan are located in separate buildings a short walk away from each other. The serene outdoor bath offers nice mountain scenery. The indoor bath area has a beautiful wooden interior equipped with several pools and fan shaped windows. All facilities are gender separated.
Manza Prince Hotel••
Daytime Hours: 11:00 to 16:00 (entry until 15:00) Daytime Admission: 1300 yen Overnight Stay: From 10,000 yen per person including 2 meals
The outdoor baths at Manza Prince Hotel offer great, unobstructed views of the surrounding mountain landscape. There are two open air baths for each gender and one mixed gender bath in addition to gender separated indoor bath areas.
Manza Kogen Hotel••
Daytime Hours: 11:00 to 18:00 (entry until 17:00) Daytime Admission: 1500 yen Overnight Stay: From 7,500 yen per person including 2 meals
Manza Kogen Hotel offers a large outdoor bath facility with seven mixed gender pools and one female-only pool. The outdoor bath area is called Sekitei Rotenburo ("Rock Garden Open Air Bath") with reference to its baths made of rocks and having a rocky decor. The hotel also has indoor bathing facilities.
Hours: 11:30 to 18:00 (entry until 17:00) Closed: No closing days Admission: 1000 yen Overnight Stay: From 10,000 yen per person including 2 meals
The baths at the Manzatei have an elegant wooden interior design. There is one indoor and one outdoor bath for each gender.
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Above the town, there is a small network of pleasant walking trails around the valley which contains a lot of the hot spring sources. It is also the site of Manza's yubatake ("hot water field"), a pool in which some of the thermal waters accumulate; however, it is too hot for bathing. One of the trails also leads to an observation point with views over the town. Due to the snow, the walking trails are unaccessible during the winter.
Instead, Manza Onsen offers skiing and snowboarding from around mid December to early April. The town's small resort has four lifts and is operated by the Manza Prince Hotel that stands right next to the ski slope and also offers rental equipment and package plans that combine accommodation with ski passes.
Take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Karuizawa (65 minutes, around 5500 yen) and then a Seibu bus from Karuizawa Station to Manza Onsen (110 minutes, 2940 yen one way). JR passes are not valid on the buses between Karuizawa and Manza Onsen.
By bus from Kusatsu
Infrequent buses directly connect Kusatsu Onsen with Manza Onsen via Mount Shirane. The one way ride takes about 50 minutes and costs 2240 yen. Buses do not operate between late October and around late April due to road closure in winter.
By hotel bus for staying guests
Some of Manza's hotels offer free shuttle bus services from Karuizawa Station or packaged transport and accommodation plans for tourists departing from Tokyo.
Access to Manza Onsen from the south leads via a toll road that costs 1080 yen one way per car (overnight guests can get a waiver for the return journey from their hotels). Access from the north is not possible during winter due to road closures around Mount Shirane from around early November to mid April.
How to get around Manza Onsen
Manza Onsen is a compact, small town. Most attractions and hotels in the town center are accessible on foot, although the roads are steep and tend to be slippery in winter. The summit of Mount Shirane is located about a 15 minute bus or car ride north, above the town.