Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Return to the Crater

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!


victoriasart said...

That is a long line of cars! Was the onsen crowded?

Travelingrant said...

It was certainly busy, but not too bad. Thats the nice thing about Kusatsu. There are some 20 or so free baths dotted around the place, and then any number of hotels and ryokans with their respective baths. On top of that are two pay baths with outdoor pools and such. I always go to one of those, its worth it for the variety of pools and saunas on offer.

Mia said...

Go to one of the hot springs near 北京. That's real traffic.