Andrea Urbinati

Tokyo to Kusatsu Onsen

Di Andrea Urbinati

blogger, andrea urbinati, marketing, copywriting, seo
Kusatsu Onsen

Kusatsu Onsen, a renowned hot spring resort, is a must-visit destination for those seeking relaxation and rejuvenation. Located approximately 200 kilometers from Tokyo, getting to Kusatsu Onsen is an adventure in itself. Whether you opt for the train and bus route via Naganohara or Karuizawa, or choose the convenience of a highway bus, there are various transportation options to suit your preferences. In this post, I will guide you on how to travel from Tokyo to Kusatsu Onsen and offer insights on getting around this charming town once you arrive. If you’re ready for a tranquil escape from the bustling city, let’s embark on this journey to Kusatsu Onsen together.

Planning Your Journey from Tokyo to Kusatsu Onsen

Traveling from the bustling streets of Tokyo to the serene hot springs of Kusatsu Onsen offers diverse transportation options, each providing its own unique experience.

Considering the Rail and Bus Combo via Naganohara

One option for the journey to Kusatsu Onsen involves combining a train ride with a bus transfer at Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station. This route takes travelers through the picturesque mountainous region, offering glimpses of rural Japan’s beauty along the way. The train journey to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station provides an opportunity to relax and enjoy the scenic vistas, followed by a comfortable bus ride that takes visitors directly to Kusatsu Onsen.

Kusatsu Onsen, a renowned hot spring

Exploring the Route through Karuizawa

Another captivating way to reach Kusatsu Onsen is through an excursion via Karuizawa. This approach allows travelers to experience the charm of Karuizawa, a quaint resort town known for its natural beauty and upscale shopping. After immersing in the tranquility of Karuizawa, visitors can continue their journey to Kusatsu Onsen, savoring the transition from the fashionable streets of Karuizawa to the untamed allure of Kusatsu.

The Convenience of Highway Buses from Tokyo

For those seeking a straightforward and comfortable journey, the option of highway buses presents a convenient choice. Departing from various locations in Tokyo, these buses provide direct transportation to Kusatsu Onsen, allowing passengers to relax and unwind as they are chauffeured through the scenic landscapes that lead to the therapeutic hot springs.

Aerial Photography of Cars on Road Intersection Photo by Joey Lu

Understanding the Costs and Passes

Before embarking on a trip from Tokyo to Kusatsu Onsen, it’s crucial to comprehend the financial aspects of the journey. This involves budgeting for the train and bus fares, understanding the JR Passes and their coverage, and navigating additional expenses.

Budgeting for the Train and Bus Fares

Transportation costs are a significant component of any travel budget. When traveling from Tokyo to Kusatsu Onsen, it’s essential to account for the train and bus fares. The journey typically involves taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Karuizawa, followed by a bus ride to Kusatsu Onsen. It’s advisable to check the latest fare information on the respective official websites of Japan Rail Pass and local bus operators to accurately budget for these expenses.

Multicolored Transit Bus Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric

Making Sense of the JR Passes and Their Coverage

For travelers planning to explore multiple destinations in Japan, the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) can be a cost-effective option. This pass provides unlimited travel on most JR trains, including the Shinkansen, for a fixed period. It’s crucial to assess the travel itinerary and duration to determine whether purchasing a JR Pass is economical. Additionally, understanding the coverage areas and the types of services included in the JR Pass is vital for making an informed decision.

Navigating Additional Expenses

In addition to transportation costs, travelers should consider other potential expenses. These may include accommodation, meals, admission fees to attractions, and any personal purchases. It’s prudent to set aside a budget for these discretionary expenses to ensure a seamless and enjoyable travel experience.

By comprehensively understanding the costs and passes associated with the Tokyo to Kusatsu Onsen journey, travelers can effectively plan their budget and optimize their travel arrangements.

The Best Times to Visit Kusatsu Onsen

Before planning a trip to Kusatsu Onsen, it’s essential to consider the best times to visit for an optimal experience. Understanding the seasonal highlights and weather conditions, as well as strategies for avoiding crowds, can significantly enhance your trip.

Seasonal Highlights and Weather

Kusatsu Onsen experiences distinct seasonal changes, each offering unique attractions. During the spring, cherry blossoms adorn the town, creating a picturesque setting for relaxation. Summer brings lush greenery and pleasant temperatures, ideal for exploring the surrounding nature trails. In autumn, the fiery colors of the changing leaves paint a captivating landscape, while winter transforms Kusatsu into a wonderland, perfect for winter sports enthusiasts. Embracing the seasonal nuances can provide a refreshing perspective on the traditional hot spring experience.

Avoiding the Crowds

To make the most of your visit, strategizing to avoid crowds is key. Consider visiting Kusatsu Onsen during off-peak times, such as weekdays or outside of national holidays, to relish a more serene and intimate ambiance. Arriving early in the morning or later in the evening can also offer quieter moments for soaking in the therapeutic hot springs or exploring the local attractions without the hustle and bustle of peak hours.

Getting Around in Kusatsu Onsen

Kusatsu Onsen is a charming town that offers various transportation options, allowing visitors to explore its beauty conveniently. Here’s a breakdown of the different ways to get around the town.

The Charm of Walking through Kusatsu

One of the best ways to experience the essence of Kusatsu Onsen is by strolling through its streets. The town’s compact size and picturesque surroundings make it ideal for leisurely walks. As you wander, you’ll encounter quaint shops, traditional ryokans, and the peaceful flow of the Yubatake hot spring. Walking allows you to fully absorb the town’s serene atmosphere and appreciate its natural beauty up close.

Public Transportation Options Around the Town

Kusatsu Onsen offers convenient public transportation, including buses and ropeways, for visitors to navigate the area with ease. The Yubatake area and the town center are easily accessible by foot, but for attractions located further out, such as the Sainokawara Park or the Kusatsu International Ski Resort, the bus system is a practical way to travel. The Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal serves as a hub for various bus routes, providing access to different parts of the town and nearby attractions.

Visiting Nearby Attractions

In addition to exploring Kusatsu Onsen, visitors can take advantage of the town’s proximity to other attractions. The Kusatsu International Ski Resort, for instance, is a short bus ride away and offers excellent skiing and snowboarding opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. Sainokawara Park, known for its open-air baths and hiking trails, is another notable destination nearby. These attractions further enhance the overall experience of visiting Kusatsu Onsen, making it an ideal base for exploration beyond the town itself.

What to Expect at Kusatsu Onsen

Kusatsu Onsen, nestled in the mountainous Gunma Prefecture, is renowned for its healing waters and rich cultural heritage. Visitors to Kusatsu Onsen can expect a unique and immersive experience, thanks to its distinct attractions and time-honored traditions.

The Famous Yubatake

The centerpiece of Kusatsu Onsen is the Yubatake, or “hot water field,” a striking wooden structure where natural spring water is cooled. The sight of mineral-rich water flowing over wooden troughs is a symbol of the town’s rich heritage and commitment to preserving its natural resources.

Yubatake Photo by Cohesion Singapore

Soaking in Tradition

Upon visiting Kusatsu Onsen, visitors have the opportunity to partake in the traditional ritual of “toji,” which involves immersing oneself in the mineral-rich waters. The local “onsen tamago,” or eggs boiled in the hot springs, are a delicacy that guests can savor while embracing the timeless customs linked to communal bathing.

Delving into the Healing Powers of Kusatsu’s Waters

The mineral composition of the waters in Kusatsu Onsen is thought to offer various health benefits. Rich in sulfur and alkaline properties, these natural geothermal waters are believed to alleviate a wide range of ailments, making the onsen a popular destination for those seeking holistic rejuvenation.

Where to Stay in Kusatsu Onsen

Planning a visit to Kusatsu Onsen and wondering where to stay? Kusatsu is known for its traditional ryokans, modern hotels, and cozy lodges, offering a range of accommodation options to suit different preferences and travel styles.

Traditional Ryokans

Embrace the authentic Japanese experience by staying in a traditional ryokan. These charming inns provide a glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural heritage, featuring tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and multi-course kaiseki dinners. One such example is the Yubatake Souan, nestled in the heart of Kusatsu and offering a serene atmosphere coupled with warm hospitality. The ryokan’s picturesque architecture and serene surroundings make it an ideal choice for those seeking a traditional yet luxurious stay.

Empty paved street in historic town in Japan Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata

Modern Hotels

For travelers seeking contemporary amenities and comfort, Kusatsu also boasts modern hotels that cater to a range of preferences. The Kusatsu Now Resort Hotel offers a blend of modern convenience and scenic views, providing an ideal retreat for those looking to unwind and rejuvenate. With spacious rooms, onsen facilities, and elegant dining options, modern hotels in Kusatsu ensure a comfortable and enriching stay amidst the town’s natural beauty.


Additionally, Kusatsu Onsen provides an array of cozy lodges for those desiring a more intimate and laid-back setting. The lodges in Kusatsu offer a perfect blend of comfort and affordability, catering to solo travelers, couples, and families alike. The Kusatsu Highland Hotel is an excellent example, providing a picturesque setting and warm hospitality, making it an ideal choice for nature enthusiasts and those seeking a tranquil retreat away from the bustling city life.

Empty Bar Filled With Lights Photo by Pixabay

Whether you opt for a traditional ryokan, modern hotel, or cozy lodge, the accommodations in Kusatsu Onsen are designed to complement the town’s serene ambiance, offering a relaxing and memorable sojourn amidst the natural wonders of this renowned hot spring destination.

Dining in Kusatsu: Savoring Local Flavors

When visiting Kusatsu, tasting the local cuisine is a must to fully immerse yourself in the cultural experience. The town offers an array of unique dishes and snacks that are sure to tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving more. From traditional Japanese delicacies to modern fusion creations, there’s something to cater to every palate.

Must-Try Dishes and Snacks

Exploring the culinary landscape of Kusatsu allows you to indulge in a variety of delectable treats. One standout dish is the “Yubatake Tamago,” a specialty egg dish steamed using the natural geothermal heat of the Yubatake hot-water field. The result is a perfectly cooked egg with a distinct flavor that sets it apart from any other. Additionally, don’t miss the opportunity to savor “Onsen Manju,” a steamed bun with sweet bean paste filling, a beloved local snack that embodies the essence of Kusatsu’s traditional flavors.

Best Eateries for a Memorable Meal

Kusatsu boasts an array of eateries where you can relish the finest local fare. For an authentic dining experience, head to “Naraya Ryokan’s Kissako Café,” renowned for its elegant Japanese-style afternoon tea and exceptional coffee brewed with precision. With vintage siphon coffee makers setting the stage for a remarkable coffee experience, coupled with delightful dessert creations using local ingredients, this café offers a perfect blend of tradition and innovation. Another must-visit is “Gin no yu,” a picturesque restaurant nestled amidst scenic surroundings, offering a delectable range of hot spring-themed dishes, including hot pots and grilled specialties, providing a feast for both the eyes and the palate.

Tips and Tricks for a Smooth Kusatsu Onsen Experience

Before embarking on your Kusatsu Onsen adventure, it’s essential to be well-prepared to fully enjoy this traditional Japanese experience. Here are some tips and tricks to ensure a smooth and enjoyable visit.

Essential Items to Pack

When preparing for your visit to Kusatsu Onsen, it’s important to pack the essential items to enhance your experience. Apart from the usual travel essentials, consider bringing a lightweight, absorbent towel, as most onsens do not provide towels or may offer them for an additional fee. Additionally, pack comfortable footwear suitable for walking around the town and a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated throughout your trip. A swimsuit is also recommended for mixed-gender bathing areas or private onsens. It’s also wise to carry some cash, as not all establishments accept credit cards.

Woman Packing a Suitcase Photo by Timur Weber

Cultural Etiquette in the Onsen Town

Understanding and respecting Japanese onsen culture is integral to a fulfilling experience. Upon arrival, familiarize yourself with common etiquette, such as thoroughly washing and rinsing your body before entering the hot spring baths. Additionally, be mindful of others’ comfort and privacy, refraining from dunking towels in the communal baths and keeping noise to a minimum. It’s also customary to avoid wearing swimsuits in gender-specific baths, although private options are available. Furthermore, be sure to remove all jewelry before entering the baths.

Making the Most of Your Trip

To make the most of your Kusatsu Onsen visit, consider exploring the town’s cultural attractions, such as Yubatake, the iconic hot water field, and Netsunoyu, a foot bath area. Indulge in local delicacies like onsen tamago (eggs boiled in hot spring water) and unagi don (grilled eel over rice) for a complete sensory experience. Additionally, take advantage of the healing properties of the onsen waters by visiting various public bathhouses and onsens with different mineral compositions.

Unagi Don with Egg Photo by Cohesion Singapore


Q1: How long does it typically take to travel from Tokyo to Kusatsu Onsen?

A1: The travel time from Tokyo to Kusatsu Onsen varies based on the mode of transportation. By train and bus via Naganohara or Karuizawa, it can take approximately 3 to 4 hours. Direct highway buses from Tokyo might take around the same time, depending on traffic conditions.

Q2: Are there any direct train services from Tokyo to Kusatsu Onsen?

A2: There are no direct train services from Tokyo to Kusatsu Onsen. The journey typically involves a train ride to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station or Karuizawa, followed by a bus to Kusatsu Onsen.

Q3: Can I use the Japan Rail Pass for travel to Kusatsu Onsen?

A3: Yes, the Japan Rail Pass can be used for the train portion of the trip to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station or Karuizawa. However, it does not cover the bus transfer to Kusatsu Onsen, which will be an additional cost.

Q4: Is driving a viable option to reach Kusatsu Onsen from Tokyo?

A4: Yes, driving is a viable option. The journey by car from Tokyo to Kusatsu Onsen takes about 3 to 4 hours, depending on traffic. It offers the flexibility to explore the scenic routes and surrounding areas at your own pace.

Q5: What are some recommended activities in Kusatsu Onsen?

A5: In Kusatsu Onsen, visitors can enjoy various activities like soaking in the numerous public hot springs, exploring the Yubatake area, visiting the Netsunoyu to watch Yumomi performances, and hiking in the nearby mountains.

Q6: What is the best time of year to visit Kusatsu Onsen?

A6: Kusatsu Onsen is a year-round destination, with each season offering a unique experience. Winter is famous for snowy landscapes and skiing, spring for cherry blossoms, summer for greenery and cool climate, and autumn for beautiful foliage.

Q7: Are there any cultural etiquettes specific to Kusatsu Onsen that visitors should be aware of?

A7: Yes, typical onsen etiquettes apply in Kusatsu as well. These include washing and rinsing off before entering the hot spring, keeping towels out of the water, and maintaining a quiet and respectful atmosphere in the onsen.

Q8: Can you recommend any traditional ryokans in Kusatsu Onsen?

A8: Traditional ryokans like Yubatake Souan, Kusatsu Onsen Ryokan Tamura, and Boun offer authentic Japanese lodging experiences with on-site hot springs and traditional Japanese cuisine.

Q9: Is there any public transportation within Kusatsu Onsen for getting around?

A9: Kusatsu Onsen is a compact town that is easily walkable. However, local buses are available for reaching attractions that are further away, like Sainokawara Park and Kusatsu International Ski Resort.

Q10: Are there dining options in Kusatsu Onsen that cater to specific dietary requirements?

A10: Kusatsu Onsen has a variety of dining options ranging from traditional Japanese cuisine to more contemporary eateries. While specific dietary options may be limited, some restaurants can accommodate requests with advance notice. It’s always a good idea to communicate dietary restrictions while making a reservation.


In conclusion, getting to Kusatsu Onsen from Tokyo is convenient and accessible through various transportation options. Whether you prefer the direct limited express train or the Hokuriku Shinkansen with a bus transfer, there are choices to suit different preferences and budgets. Once in Kusatsu, the town’s compact size makes getting around on foot easy, with popular attractions and ryokan within walking distance. With its unique hot water field and proximity to Mount Shirane, Kusatsu Onsen offers a delightful retreat from the bustling city of Tokyo.

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About the author
blogger, andrea urbinati, marketing, copywriting, seo

Hi! I’m Andrea, a passionate freelance writer with a knack for captivating storytelling.

With a decade of marketing expertise and a genuine love for crafting compelling content, I bring your ideas to life!

Let me know if you need a writer for your blog!

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