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Getting There & Away

JR buses connect Kusatsu Onsen to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station (¥700, free for JR Pass holders, 25 minutes). Tokkyū Kusatsu trains run from Ueno to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station (¥4750, 2½ hours) two times a day. Alternatively, take the Jōetsu shinkansen (bullet train) to Takasaki (¥4410, one hour) and transfer to the JR Agatsuma line (¥1140, 1½ hours).

JR Bus Kantō offers direct service to Kusatsu Onsen (¥3450, four hours) from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo (departing from the New South exit); reservations required.

If you've rented a vehicle, you'll be stressed out trying to navigate the crowded, narrow streets of the village. However, the drive between Kusatsu Onsen and Karuizawa, 41km to the south, in the Nagano region, affords excellent views of the active volcano Mt Asama.

Heading northwest on Rte 292 towards Shiga Kōgen, and onward to Yudanaka in Nagano, offers some of Japan's most spectacular spring and autumn scenery, with no shortage of incredible vistas. The winding, high-altitude route is extremely popular (and slow) at weekends and is not recommended for those who get carsick easily.