Mt. Shirane 草津白根山
Trek through alpine nature past eerie crater lakes; ski and snowshoe in the winter
Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane, the 2,160-meter peak above Kusatsu Onsen , is an active volcano, which provides a hint of excitement to seasonal activities, like hiking and skiing, you can enjoy on and around the mountain.
If you like hot springs, this wonderful location will let you enjoy two famous onsen in one day. The road going up the mountain from Kusatsu Onsen passes through the Kusatsu International Ski Resort and continues around to Manza Onsen.
Japanese travel agents have named Kusatsu Onsen Japan's best for 14 consecutive years
A free shuttle bus will take you to the main hiking course around Lake Yugama and other crater lakes
Lake Yugama's waters are turquoise, but yellow sulfur floats on the surface
How to Get There
You can reach this mountain area via train, bus or car. Driving gives you many more options.
Take the JR Agatsuma Line's Kusatsu limited express from Ueno in Tokyo to Naganoharakusatsuguchi Station, a journey that takes about 2 1/2 hours. From there, board a bus to Kusatsu Onsen (25 minutes). That puts you close.
To reach the summit, from mid-April to mid-November, hourly buses run from the Kusatsu Bus Terminal to Shirane Resthouse (30 minutes). From late April to late October, buses from Manza Onsen run to Shirane Resthouse, taking 15 minutes.
At the summit of Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane, nature's fury has created a series of eerie yet stunning crater lakes.
When is the best time to hike?
Hiking is possible from mid-April to early November, with a number of longer circuits that lead to other peaks and crater lakes in the area. It's a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the unique highland vegetation, such as the rhododendrons, fireweed flowers, and delicate dicentra flowers that draw visitors from afar.
If you're not into hiking, take the cable car near Kusatsu Onsen to the summit for stunning views of the mountain and the surrounding ranges.
The longest run
Although the road to the summit closes for winter, you can still access the summit via the Kusatsu Kokusai Ski Resort . The cable car and chairlifts take you to the summit, which has a Mt. Shirane snowshoe tour. There's also an 8-kilometer downhill slope that is one of Japan's longest runs.
In late April, when the winter season comes to an end and the snow begins to thaw, a path is carved along the Shiga-Kusatsu Route to form a snow corridor five meters high that cars and buses can pass through.
Just a note of caution
As you make your way along the mountain road, you'll smell sulfur. Keep your windows closed, since the hydrogen sulfide gas can be quite strong and the winds can change quickly.