One of Japan's Three Famous Springs (日本三名泉 Nihon Sanmeisen) — not to be confused with Japan's Three Great Springs and several other competing variants — the town's hot springs made their first appearance in print in the Engi Era (901-923). The present incarnation is packed full of colossal concrete hotels and bars advertising nude shows, spanning both sides of the rocky Hida River. Nevertheless, the hot springs are held in high regard by Japanese, and the scenery in the valley is quite picturesque, particularly in autumn.
Gero's small tourist office, next to the station, can help you book if you arrive with no reservation.
1 Gero Station is on the JR Takayama Line, which has spectacular views of the valley and the Hida River below. The Wide View Hida (ワイドビューひだ) limited express from Nagoya takes about 1½ hours (¥4,620). If you're coming from the Sea of Japan side, from Takayama it takes 45 minutes (¥2,240), and from Toyama there are 4 daily runs taking 2½ hours (¥4,940); local trains from Toyama take 2½-3½ hours, with a transfer in Inotani, and another in Takayama if you want to take the faster Wide View Express for the last segment.
From Tokyo, take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya and then the Wide View Hida. On a Nozomi, this takes about 3½ hours and costs ¥13,880; by Hikari it takes 4 hours, but is free with the Japan Rail Pass.
From the Kansai region, Gero is around 2¼ hours from Kyoto (¥9,130) and around 2½ hours from Osaka (¥9,780), also using the Nozomi or Hikari and changing in Nagoya. There is also a daily round-trip of the Wide View Hida leaving Kansai in the morning (#25 at 07:58 from Osaka Station) and returning in the evening (#36 at 16:24 from Gero) using conventional lines. While it's slightly more convenient, this service is slower, taking 3 hours from Kyoto (¥6,570) and 3½ hours from Osaka (¥7,330), and there are no food and drink sales.
If you take local trains from Nagoya, the ride will take at least 2½ hours at a cost of ¥2,270, with several transfers required on the way. From Takayama, it's 65 minutes and costs ¥970, and from Toyama it's 3-4 hours (or more) and ¥2,590.
There are daily buses to Gero from Nagoya, Takayama, Toyama, and Osaka.
Gero is accessible from national highways 41 and 257, about 2 hours' drive from Nagoya; take the Chuo Expressway E19 to Ena or Nakatsugawa, then 257, or take 41 the whole way.
Gero Onsen can be covered on foot, although if you have much luggage you'll want to get a taxi or arrange a pickup with your lodgings — the train station lies on the south side of the river, while most hotels are across the long bridge to the north.
There's only one noteworthy attraction in Gero:
- 1 Gassho Village (合掌村 Gasshō-mura), Mori 2369 (from the station, take a 5-minute ¥150 bus ride (buses run about once per hour), taxi for about ¥650, or walk for about 20 minutes), ☏ . Daily 08:30-17:00, New Year (Dec 31-Jan 2) 09:00-04:00. A traditional-style village with thatched-roof gasshō-zukuri (shaped like hands in prayer) houses. At least one house is authentic, having been constructed in Shirakawa-go (also in Gifu, nationally famous for its gasshō-zukuri houses) in the mid-1800s, and later relocated here to escape being submerged behind a dam. You can paint pottery and make paper yourself, and they will mail your handiwork back to you for an additional fee. There are displays of traditional festivals, and a museum of guardian-dog statues (狛犬 koma-inu) used at shrines. Nourish your body with local specialties from the restaurant, your feet by soaking in the footbath, and your inner child by riding the roller slide. Admission ¥800 adults, ¥400 children; ceramics ¥900-1,300; pottery session (1.5 hours, reservations required) ¥2,800; papermaking ¥1,100-1,200; slide ¥100/turn.
The remaining sites include some distinctly ordinary temples, which are just an excuse to take in some beautiful mountain views:
- 2 Charlie Chaplin statue (チャップリン像 Chappurin-zō). The American silent film star visited Gifu Prefecture twice in the 1930s, where he saw cormorant fishing (鵜飼 ukai, quite literally using birds to catch fish), which he described as "Japan's highest art form". However, the statue's purpose is rather far removed from that: it's there "to make a 'movie street' where tourists can walk around the hot springs while talking about movies"!
- 3 Gero Onsen Museum (温泉博物館 Onsen Hakubutsukan). F-W 09:00-17:00. Small museum with hot spring paraphanalia dating back to the Edo period, samples of water from hot springs around Japan, and some simple experiments you can perform using Gero hot spring water. Adult ¥400, children ¥200.
- 4 Mori Hachiman Shrine (森八幡神社), Mori 1321.
- 5 Onsen-ji Temple (温泉寺), Yunoshima 680. This temple is strongly connected to the town's history. In 1265, an earthquake destroyed the town and caused the hot springs to dry up. According to legend, a white heron led villagers to a new source of hot water. The villagers built the temple in thanks, and the heron can be seen on the town's manhole covers.
- 6 Zenshō-ji Temple (禅昌寺), Hagiwara-chō, Chūro 1819 (JR Takayama Line one stop north to Zenshoji Station, then a 5-minute walk). Daily 08:30-16:30.
- See also: Public baths in Japan
As you'd expect in a hot spring town, the major attraction in Gero is to soak in hot springs. An easy way to sample a number of them is to buy the Yu-meguri Tegata (湯めぐり手形, "onsen-touring pass"), a wooden amulet sold all over Gero. This will get you into 3 hot springs of your choice from a choice of about 30 for the flat price of ¥1,300, which can be used up at your own pace as you'll get a stamp each time you visit; you can keep the amulet as a souvenir, too.
Gero is also quite popular for sightseeing of seasonal cherry blossoms and fall leave colors due to its mountainous location.
- Foot baths (足湯 ashiyu) are popular in Gero, as the waters are reputed to have curative properties. True to the name, you just take off your shoes and sit down with your feet in the water. A number of free foot baths can be found around town, including the decidedly tacky 1 Venus Foot Bath in front of the Shirasagi Hotel — no prizes for guessing what the statue in the middle is doing.
- 2 Fountain Pond outdoor bath (噴泉池野天風呂 Fusenchi notenburo). 24/7. This open-air hot bath can be found to the west side of the bridge, with access via the south side. Note that there are no facilities to speak of and the bathing area is mixed and clearly visible to passersby on the bridge above, but admission is also free so you get what you pay for. Swimwear required for all users. Free.
- 3 Yunomachi Ujo Park (湯のまち雨情公園 Yu-no-machi Ujō Kōen). 24/7. Much prettier than the so-called park surrounding the Hida River, this park has a lovely 500-meter walk along a tributary landscaped into a ladder waterfall, with sculptures and memorials. Free.
- Tanokami or Hanagasa - February 14
- Ryujin Fire Festival - August 1-3
- Amateur kabuki performances in May and November
- Fireworks in August and December
The most popular souvenir from Gero (and the Hida region in general) is a sarubobo (lit. "baby monkey"), a small faceless doll amulet.
- 1 Ideyu Morning Market (いでゆ朝市 Ideyu Asaichi), 2626 Mori (adjacent to Gassho Village). Mar-Nov daily 08:00-12:00. Small market where vendors peddle local produce (only Friday-Monday), food products, and souvenirs. Free.
- Ideyu Night Market (いでゆ夜市 Ideyu Yoichi). End of Jul–end of Aug daily 19:00-22:00. Free.
The tomato bowl is a known favorite in several eating establishments throughout the town.
There's a local beer, Gero Gensen Beer, and two sake breweries. Gero is also famous for tomato juice, which you drink after a bath to detox.
Gero has a number of high-class inns where you can soak in luxury on a mountainside without ever trudging through town going from bath to bath.
- 1 Fugaku (冨岳), Yunoshima 898 (by Main Street; 10 minute walk from JR Gero station; shuttle from JR Gero station available; free parking), ☏ . Fugaku is Japanese traditional natural hot spring hotel, along Hida River. They have 6 onsen baths (2 indoor, 2 outdoor, and 2 private for families), free Wi-Fi service in the lobby, tatami-mat rooms with air-conditioning, LCD TVs and refrigerators in rooms. In-room dining features 10-course meals of Hida beef. Walking distance to riverside and downtown, 15 minutes to onsen temple, 25 minutes to Gasho Village and Morning Market. 2 guests in 1 room from ¥10,500/person, meals included.
- 2 Yukyunohana (悠久の華), Yunoshima 898-1 (shuttle from JR Gero station available, request in advance), ☏ . In this ryokan built in 2012, the decor is traditional, but everything else is modern: all rooms have a small private onsen bath on an open-air patio, as well as LCD TVs and wired Internet access (with free Wi-Fi available in the lobby). Rooms are not as spacious as at some of the other ryokan in Gero, but you get a lot more features in your room, so it's a very fair trade. Meals are taken in their private restaurant. There is also a karaoke room available for ¥2,100/hour. Traditional room with private open-air bath from ¥19,950/person.
- 3 Yunoshimakan (湯之島館), Yunoshima 645 (shuttle from JR Gero station available, request in advance), ☏ . This multi-building onsen ryokan sits on the side of a mountain overlooking the valley and the city. Features 7 baths including 2 outdoor baths and a foot bath, and a large gated garden. Dinner and breakfast are included and are 12-18 courses. Enjoy wandering through the odd-angled hallways and extensions to the original building; they even made a stamp-hunting game of it (pick up a blank sheet from the front desk). Since the rest of the rykoan is the same no matter which room you get, you can save yourself some money by going for the cheaper rooms. Main hall from ¥19,250/person, meals included; annex from ¥25,850; state room from ¥37,850.
- 4 Mutsumikan (睦館), Koden 1167-1 (2 minute walk from JR Gero station ; free parking), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Mutsumikan is an affordable hot spring ryokan located very close to Gero Station and within walking distance of Gero Onsen city center.The family-run ryokan features friendly staff and personalized services, indoor/outdoor natural Onsen bath.English spoken,the staff is welcoming to foreign visitors. Free Wi-Fi and Included dining plans available. 2 guests in 1 room from ¥10,500/person, meals included.
- Takayama, with its preserved Edo architecture is just a short ride away down the JR Takayama line.
|Routes through Gero|
|Toyama ← Takayama ←||N S||→ Gifu →|