One of my favorite places in Gunma is the brilliant blue crater lake at Mt. Shirane, and the hot springs town of Kusatsu at the base of the mountain. It makes for an easy day trip from Maebashi, and the scenery is gorgeous and unique.
Our group had failed to consider the effects of the three day weekend, and traffic was pretty heavy on approach to the summit. Heavy in a "You can actually walk faster than the car" sort of a way. We saw license plates from all over Japan as we idled along. We had been joined on our excursion by people from Tokyo, Nagoya, Kanazawa, Utsunomiya and more. Despite the seemingly endless line of cars snaking up the mountain we persevered and were glad that we did.
The temperature in the uplands was fantastic, much cooler than steamy Maebashi. Peter, Dean and Tessia were all new to the sights and smells of Mt. Shirane, and were all suitably impressed. It was my third time to the top, and fourth to Kusatsu, but I had a fantastic time as always. There is a certain thrill to walking around an obviously active volcano that keeps one coming back, even with epic traffic.
While we had places to be in the evening, a stop at Mt. Shirane is not complete without a visit to the famous sulfur onsen below. I maintain that Kusatsu has my favorite onsen waters in all Japan. You just feel so GOOD getting out of the bath, though you do have to be careful of dehydration. I lost over a kilogram of water weight in an hour. It was a good thing we had Gatorade ready for replenishment.
From Kusatsu we sped to our next stop, a place of vengeful demons!