There are so many hot springs in Japan. Kusatsu Onsen is located in northern part of Gunma. It is well known as one of the most three famous hot springs in Japan. Other two are Arima Hot Springs in Hyogo and Gero Hot Springs in Gifu.
In this post, I would like to share the information about access to Kusatsu Onsen with you.
Limited Express Kusatsu and JR Bus Kanto
Actually any train cannot take you to Kusatu Onsen directly. You can access to the nearest station, Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi. And then you need to get on a bus to Kusatsu Onsen. But this bus service is operated by one of JR Group, JR Bus Kanto. This bus is covered by Japan Rail Pass too.
Limited Express Kusatsu connects Ueno station in Tokyo and Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi station directly. This is only train to get Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi directly from Tokyo area. It is obviously the easiest way to get there. There are two round trips in weekdays and one more round trip on weekend. Please see the post, Limited Express Kusatsu, most convenient access to Kusatsu-Onsen from Ueno, Tokyo to get the details about this train.
After you get off this express train at Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi station, get on the bus to Kusatsu-Onsen. The bus stops is only 15m away from the station. And Naganohara-kusatsuguchi station has only one platform and two tracks. You cannot miss it.
If you take Limited Express Kusatsu, express bus wait for the passengers from the train. In case that bus is full, next bus comes right away. It takes 22 minutes to get Kusatsu Onsen from Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi station. Japan Rail Pass cover this bus service completely. All you have to do is just show your pass to the driver.
Joetsu Shinkansen, local train and JR Bus Kanto
Limited Express Kusatsu is operated only twice a day on weekdays. You may not be able to catch it. If you cannot catch this express train, you can use Joetsu Shikansen to Takasaki and transfer to local train on Agatsuma line. But don’t forget that Shinkansen train is faster than limited express Kusatsu. You may be able to catch up with it if you cannot be in time at Ueno station.
Kusatsu #1 Ueno 10:00 -> 11:23 Takasaki
Joetsu Shinkansen Max Toki #317 Tokyo 10:12 -> Ueno 10:18 -> 11:01 Takasaki
If you still cannot catch up with it, you have to take a local train from Takasaki. Naganohara-kusatsuguchi station is on Agatsuma line. This is a branch line and trains are not operated very frequently. There are about 15 round trips a day and is operated once an hour. It takes about 1.5 hrs from Takasaki to Naganohara-kusatsuguchi station. But limited express Kusatsu is not much faster than local train. It takes about 1 hour 10 minutes for same section.
Even if you arrive at Naganohara-kusatsuguchi by local train, the bus to Kusatsu Onsen wait for the passengers. This connected bus service is not an express bus service. But travel time is not much different from express bus service. It takes 28 minutes to get Kusatsu Onsen from Naganohara-kusatsuguchi station.
Of course these trains and bus service are completely covered by Japan Rail Pass as well.
Bus from Karuizawa
This bus service is not covered by Japan Rail Pass. But Karuizawa is popular destination and some of you want to access from Karuizawa to Kusatsu Onsen directly. Because if you use trains, it is a big detour. You have to go back to Takasaki by Nagano Shinkansen and transfer to Limited Express Kusatsu or local train to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi.
If you use a bus service, it takes 1 hour 15 minutes by express bus. As I mentioned above, it takes 1 hour 10 minutes from Takasaki to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi by even limited express Kusatsu. Direct bus service is much faster than train service. The bus is operated by Kusakaru Kotsu. They don’t have English website. But I put the link to this company website. They operate 5 round trips of express bus between Karuizawa and Kusatu Onsen. The bus fare is 2200 yen.
There is one more bus company, Seibu Kogen Bus company that operates the bus service from Karuizawa to Kusatsu Onsen. But this bus service connects Karuizawa with Shirane mountain and Kusatsu Onsen. It takes about 3 hours and the fare is 3770 yen. And this bus service is usually not available during winter season due to heavy snow.
Kusatsu Bus Terminal
All buses arrive at Kusatsu Bus terminal. There are souvenir shop, restaurant and small hot springs museum. And also if you don’t use Japan Rail Pass, you can purchase train ticket. Many hotels can be accessed on foot. But please contact to your hotel to make sure location.
Yubatake that is most popular spot in Kusatsu can be accessed by walk from the bus terminal. It is about 300m away. The following 9 minutes movie shows you to get Yubatake from the bus terminal.