Take A Walk Around Gero Onsen
By John Asano
Gero Onsen is a resort town in Japan famous for its natural hot spring water. Located in the beautiful mountains of Gifu Prefecture, Gero Onsen is a popular stop for travellers heading further north to places like Hida Takayama, and the World Heritage Village of Shirakawa-go.
The town has a history of over 1000 years, and is regarded as being one of the “Top Three Hot Springs” in Japan along with Arima and Kusatsu Onsen. The natural hot spring water in Gero is believed to make the skin soft and smooth, and the water is called “Bijin no Yu” in Japanese, meaning beautifying waters.
A great thing about the town is that it is compact enough to explore on foot. There are many “ashi-yu” (foot baths) dotted around the town that are easy to find as well as free of charge. They make a fun spot to rest and soak your tired feet after all the walking. All the foot baths vary in character and style and it is fun hopping from spot to spot to try all the different ones out.
A few of my favourites are the European fountain style foot bath, Venus Foot Spa, and the Seven Lucky Gods themed Sarubobo Golden Foot Spa that features a golden boat filled with sarubobo dressed as the seven lucky gods. Sarubobo is a red-hooded baby monkey famous around the Hida area, it is believed to bring good luck.
While walking around Gero Onsen you will notice a lot of references to frogs. These range from the cute manhole covers in the street to the famous frog shrine (Kaeru Jinja), which is dedicated to all things frog! So why all these references to frogs in Gero Onsen? Well “Gero” is the sound a frog makes in Japan and the name of the town is Gero, so two and two came together to produce a town that prides itself on frogs.
After soaking your feet at the foot baths and checking out all the frogs, you might be ready for a full body soak. I recommend picking up a “Yu-meguri Tegata” spa pass, a wooden tablet sold in Gero Onsen for 1,200 yen. This pass will allow you to access three of the hot springs of your choice from a selection of over twenty. You can pick one up from several places in Gero Onsen including hotels, onsen, souvenir shops, the information center and at some selected convenience stores. It also makes a great souvenir when you are done and have finished your visit.
If you are feeling brave you might also want to check out the amazing “rotenboro” (open air bath) that is located at the south end of Gero Bridge along the banks of the Hida River. It is a natural source of hot spring water just like the onsen and is free to use. You can enjoy a soak while enjoying the stunning view of mountains and flowing river.Photo by sanmai
You can easily get to Gero from Nagoya in Central Japan on the JR Hida Limited Express. The journey takes around 90 minutes and costs 4,500 yen (the trip is covered by the Japan Rail Pass). A cheaper option if you don’t have a Japan Rail Pass is to take a highway bus from Nagoya Station to Gero Station. It takes around 150 minutes and costs 2,100 yen one way, or 3,000 yen return.
Gero Onsen is a picturesque town surrounded by beautiful mountains and hot flowing natural spring water. If you are after a traditional Japanese onsen town experience then I highly recommend you pay a visit to Gero Onsen.