Forward from Through the Year at Kusatsu Onsen:
Welcome to the four seasons of Kusatsu Onsen Hot Springs. We landed on the idea after a trip to this hidden village in May, when we realized an Onsen town is alive, active and full of lovely adventure all year long.
Kusatsu is tucked in the mountains about 1.5 hours by car or bus from its better known neighbor, Karuizawa. Both towns share a long history as the location of choice for affluent Tokyo and Yokohama-ites seeking to escape the city hustle and heat. Kusatsu, though, remains largely undiscovered by the international community because of its relative isolation (no direct Shinkansen access) and since it’s constantly selected as Japan’s top onsen in the north, very little advertisement is required to attract domestic travelers. People in the know love Kusatsu and they’re the ones who make sure their relatives and friends make the discovery of this magical, healing place.
May relieved our tired senses with bright sunbeams caressing the soft green of new leaves and a whip-poor-will song floating down from the forest depths. Fellow yukata-clad visitors stroll along the town’s landmark, its Yubatake, or hot water field. This massive well of heavily scented onsen water is a centerpiece that roils, bubbles and gurgles . . . ever changing and so full of natural beauty and life. Visitors’ yukata colors and symbols designate their ryokan, or inn, of choice, but everyone here, young or old, Japanese or not, is drawn to the magical feel of the heavily scented sulphur steam. We snap photos in front of the field as the steam envelopes us in warmth and scent. Already we start to relax as we feel the heavy burden of “real life” begin to recede.
During winter, snowflakes fall through this same warm steam and visitors, now with thick tunics over their cotton yukata huddle together in awe of the light, steam and snow combining and intertwining in a wintry dance.
Autumn offers hills and mountains drenched in rich color and evening illumination of the Yubatake becomes a multicolored ethereal show of steam, light and shining stars.
Summer features festivals, hiking, and walking in the mountains, clean, cool air and, of course, the healing waters of hot springs everywhere throughout town.
We hope to take the same view as Mt. Shirane as she observes Kusatsu’s subtle, unforgettable and precious changes in scenery, expression and nuance year round. A destination for each and every day of the year, here is the Kusatsu that flows with each season and every moment of the day. Alive and healing, Kusatsu can be your haven from the pressures of a 24/7, on-the-go world.
About the Author
Petra Canan Trudell is an American journalist, project manager and online content specialist living in Tokyo, Japan. Her work has been published by The Wall Street Journal, The Style Line, Hollywood.com, TWC Central, Deep Japan, Currantly.com, HealthyTokyo, Venus Zine, Savvy Tokyo and Daily Candy.
She also documents her travels around the world and life as an expat living in Japan on her blog, 100 Tacks.
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