Kusatsu Onsen lies deep in the mountains in Japan’s Gunma prefecture, two-and-a-half hours by express train northwest of Tokyo. Rie and I spent a couple of days there enjoying hot springs and fabulous weather. We stayed at the Hotel Ichii, a mid-range ryokan located in the center of the town proper, and where you can still get two meals served right there in the room, a luxury increasingly hard to find at more and more cash-strapped innes.
The hot springs at Kusatsu have been attracting visitors since the early 1200s, and was introduced to the rest of the world by a German physician teaching here at the time. The water is highly sulphuric, and with a PH of between 1.7 and 2.1 is said to be extremely effective as a treatment for a variety of ailments, both internal and of the skin.
The source of all the local onsen water is the Yubatake (湯畑), located in the center of town (right in front of our hotel, in fact). Glowing brightly yellow and green, the water passes up through the ground and over stained rocks and stones at a rate of over 5,000 liters per minute, making it the highest-volume hot spring source in Japan.
We managed to make five trips to different baths and outdoor rotenburou (露天風呂) during our short stay there, and the combination of piping hot water (45 degrees!), blue skies and cool mountain air offered us a much-needed respite from the Tokyo grind.