We estimate the mass and energy budgets for the 2018 phreatic eruption of Mt. Motoshirane on Kusatsu–Shirane volcano, Japan, based on data obtained from a network of eight tiltmeters and weather radar echoes. The tilt records can be explained by a subvertical crack model. Small craters that were formed by previous eruptions are aligned WNW–ESE, which is consistent with the crack azimuth modeled in this study. The direction of maximum compressive stress in this region is horizontal and oriented WNW–ESE, allowing fluid to intrude from depth through a crack with this orientation. Based on the crack model, hypocenter distribution, and MT resistivity structure, we infer that fluid from a hydrothermal reservoir at a depth of 2 km below Kusatsu–Shirane volcano has repeatedly ascended through a pre-existing subvertical crack. The inflation and deflation volumes during the 2018 eruption are estimated to have been 5.1 * 10 5 and 3.6 * 10 5 m 3 , respectively, meaning that 1.5 * 10 5 m 3 of expanded volume formed underground. The total heat associated with the expanded volume is estimated to have been ≥10 14 J, similar to or exceeding the annual heat released from Yugama Crater Lake of Mt. Shirane and that from the largest eruption during the past 130 yr. Although the ejecta mass of the 2018 phreatic eruption was small, the 2018 MPCG eruption was not negligible in terms of the energy budget of Kusatsu–Shirane volcano. A water mass of 0.1–2.0 * 10 7 kg was discharged as a volcanic cloud, based on weather radar echoes, which is smaller than the mass associated with the deflation. We suggest that underground water acted as a buffer against the sudden intrusion of hydrothermal fluids, absorbing some of the fluid that ascended through the crack.