There is currently no direct Shinkansen access, but Kusatsu Onsen can be reached by car, train or highway bus and is easily accessible from both the Tokyo and Osaka areas. The journey takes about three hours from Central Tokyo, making it a perfect weekend getaway.
The Kusatsu Onsen Touriam Association is happy to help you plan your journey to Kusatsu Onsen including driving instructions and maps. For complete route information and timetables for buses and trains to help you prepare, please visit HERE.
It’s sometimes easy to forget that Japan, with all its grinding work hours, high tech wizardry and futuristic architecture, can also offer spectacular vistas and natural phenomena. To witness this transformation when urban, turns to suburban and then downright country, we drove from the sea in Shonan to the snow-covered hamlet of Kusatsu nestled in the Gunma mountainside. The drive took us north and then west. We took the new Ken-O expressway — the one that our car navi can never find— along the Kan-etsu and then on to national roads Routes 17, 353 t145. We drove down in the valleys and up in the mountains and then along Route 292 to Kusatsu Town.
It was an absolutely beautiful sunny afternoon. However, two days prior, 20 cm of snow had blanketed the area. The landscape, while stunning, give a palpable meaning to all those signs for chains on tires. But in one of many authentic, “only in Japan” moments, roadsides along the route, especially in hilly areas or just before sharp curves, were dotted with little stands with bags filled with dirt.
There were still a few minor tense moments as we hit small patches of icy roads. But all of that disappeared just before Kusatsu. Driving along on the “Musical Road” we were pleasantly surprised. We were already at 40km/h so our unchained tires, revealed a familiar melody as we drove over the specially designed road surface. Cool! Another “only in japan” moment!
By Alana Bonzi, one of the contributors to our ebook Through the Year at Kusatsu Onsen.