Yubatake—the symbol of Kusatsu Onsen
The streets of Kusatsu Onsen were built up over a period of more than 800 years since the end of the Heian period. The Yubatake, or "hot-water field," has always been the centerpiece of the town. The Yubatake and the torrents of hot spring water that gush forth have long been popular with hot spring visitors and tourists. It shows no signs of slowing down and remains an iconic symbol of Kusatsu Onsen.
In the middle of the Yubatake there are seven wooden troughs through which the hot spring waters flow; these channels cool the water and allow mineral salts called yu-no-hana to crystalize. The spring waters then flow down a small cascade, which is illuminated at night to make for a fantastical scene. The Yubatake was designated a cultural property on October 13, 2017 as a "place of scenic beauty."
Serious about quality
The Yubatake is the face of Kusatsu. The wooden channels that carry the water from the spring's origin at the top of the hot spring fields are made from five-centimeter thick pinewood still containing a lot of resin. Fine-quality pinewood or Japanese cypress rich in resin is the optimum choice of material to withstand the copious flow of acidic spring water. This is why many inns still have nostalgic, wooden bathtubs made of similar materials. Thus, the quality of Kusatsu's spring water also serves to create a typically rustic hot spring atmosphere.
Blossoms of the Yubatake
Yu-no-hana, or so-called natural bath salts, are formed when the hot spring water flows down the wooden chutes and is exposed to the air. The salts are carefully scraped off every second month while the water flow is temporarily halted. They are packaged into approximately 6,000 small cylindrical containers holding roughly 95 grams each. Purchasing some means you can enjoy the blessings of Kusatsu's plentiful hot springs at home.
Enjoying the blessings of the hot spring
There are public bathhouses dotted around the town that are managed and used by the local residents on a daily basis. Of them, three bathhouses—Shirahata-no-yu, Chiyo-no-yu, and Jizo-no-yu—are officially open to visitors.
If you wish to visit one of these communal bathhouses, please be sure to read through, and observe, the following rules.
- Please be mindful of the rules, manners, and other guidelines displayed at each public bathhouse.
- Please take your own towel.
- Some public bathhouses may not have toilets available for use.
- Please refrain from speaking loudly or making noise.
- Be sure to seek the approval of other people in the bath if you wish to lower the temperature with cold water.
When doing so, please do not add too much water as other people will enter the bath after you.
- Please do not turn off the flow of hot spring water into the bath.
- Please do not soak your towel in the bath water.
- When leaving the bathing area, please briefly wipe yourself down with your towel so that you avoid dripping on the changing room floor.
- If you do get the changing room floor wet, please wipe it dry before leaving so as not too inconvenience others arriving after you.