Sai No Kawara Outdoor Bath Kusatsu Reviews
One of the prettiest outdoor onsen I've seen Dec 07, 2008
As soon as I stepped out the car in Kusatsu, I knew I was somewhere different. The onsen town is characterised by its sulfurous scent, and the brisk winter morning air made me eager to arrive at the area's largest outdoor onsen.
As we walked through the streets, past the authentic Ryokan and Minshuku, I was marvelling at the snow capped mountains surrounding the town. We rounded a corner a piping hot anko-filled Manju (small sweet bread dumpling) was thrust into one hand and a cup of hot green tea into the other. A clever ploy to encourage purchases, we finished our free goodies and continued up the path to the main town Square.
Unlike many other Onsen town, Kusatsu has a main village square: Yubatake, where the scalding hot natural spring water is piped to the individual onsen by wooden gutters. The steam from the water gives the whole town an ethereal feel, like you're not quite in the same world any more.
The water from the mountains is generally too hot for direct bathing, so a stirring process known as 'Yumomi' can be observed in combination with a local dance performance.
After oohing and ahhing at the aquamarine colours of the waters, created by the sulfur residue, we made our way to Sai No Kawara.
The more common pre-onsen shower and hair-wash practice is less strict at this onsen, and bathers quickly rinse themselves in the icy cold tap water before entering the 43 degree Celsius waters.
The Onsen is huge, with a high wooden fence separating the men's and womens' sections. The rock finish, surrounded by forest and mountains is the perfect accompaniment to the slowly moving onsen waters. As you lie back and let the week's stresses drain away.
The only way this could be more magic is if it were nighttime, or snowing.
An onsen under the stars, when it's cold enough to freeze in the outside air is definitely something to be experienced.
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