We investigate the source mechanism of long-period (LP) events observed at Kusatsu-Shirane Volcano, Japan, based on waveform inversions of their effective excitation functions. The effective excitation function, which represents the apparent excitation observed at individual receivers, is estimated by applying an autoregressive filter to the LP waveform. Assuming a point source, we apply this method to seven LP events the waveforms of which are characterized by simple decaying and nearly monochromatic oscillations with frequency in the range 1-3 Hz. The results of the waveform inversions show dominant volumetric change components accompanied by single force components, common to all the events analyzed, and suggesting a repeated activation of a sub-horizontal crack located 300 m beneath the summit crater lakes. Based on these results, we propose a model of the source process of LP seismicity, in which a gradual buildup of steam pressure in a hydrothermal crack in response to magmatic heat causes repeated discharges of steam from the crack. The rapid discharge of fluid causes the collapse of the fluid-filled crack and excites acoustic oscillations of the crack, which produce the characteristic waveforms observed in the LP events. The presence of a single force synchronous with the collapse of the crack is interpreted as the release of gravitational energy that occurs as the slug of steam ejected from the crack ascends toward the surface and is replaced by cooler water flowing downward in a fluid-filled conduit linking the crack and the base of the crater lake. ?? 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.