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Discovering the Healing Waters of Gero Onsen on a Side Trip from Nagoya

If you’re looking to experience Japan beyond the bustling cities, consider taking a side trip to Gero Onsen. Located just a 2-hour train ride from Nagoya, Gero Onsen is a charming onsen town nestled in the heart of the Japanese Alps.

A Brief History of Gero Onsen

Manhole cover with the white heron

Gero Onsen has a rich history that dates back over a thousand years famous for its healing waters. But when in 1265 an earthquake lead to a drying of the original spring the townspeople were shocked. They were saved by a white heron who lead them to a new spring, and since then the white heron is a symbol of Gero Onsen.

During the Edo period, Gero Onsen was a popular rest stop for travelers making their way through the mountainous region and it was even declared as having one of the three best Onsen waters in all of Japan.

Today, the town continues to attract tourists seeking relaxation and rejuvenation with traditional Onsen Ryokan and new shops selling trendy and delicious street food.

Where to Enjoy Onsen on a Gero Onsen Day Trip

The highlight of a visit to Gero Onsen is, of course, the hot springs for which this town is famous. There are countless baths at all Ryokan (traditional hotels) and also some public facilities for you to enjoy.

Foot Onsen

Foot Onsen by the river

Dotted around town are more than a hand full of Ashiyu, foot Onsen, where you can sit and warm only your feet and lower legs in the healing hot spring without having to undress completely.

Hand Onsen

A modern hand Onsen

Onsen water isn’t just good for your feet, your hands will also thank you. Throughout the town, multiple water fountains are fed by hot spring water which you can use on your hands.

Public Bathhouses

Shirasagi no Yu facade

The best place to enjoy Onsen if you aren’t staying in Gero Onsen overnight (which we highly recommend) is one of the public bathhouses around town. One of the oldest is Shirasagi no Yu dating back to the 1920s. It features multiple Onsen pools but unfortunately no outdoor Rotenburo.

Shirasagi no Yu(白鷺乃湯)
Entry Fee: adults 430 yen, school children 160 yen, children under 3 years 80 yen
Opening hours: 10:00 – 21:00, closed Wednesdays
Address: 856-1 Yunoshima, Gero, Gifu 509-2207
Access: From Gero Station it’s a 10-minute walk.
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps

Gero Onsen Pass

Gero Onsen Passes for rent

If you’re planning on experiencing multiple Onsen while in Gero Onsen, consider purchasing a Gero Onsen Pass. This pass allows you to visit up to three Onsen of your choice for a discounted price. You can get it at the tourist information.

If you have tattoos make sure to check each Onsen facility and hotel about their tattoo policy. This website might be a good place to start your research.

Top Attractions in Gero Onsen

There are plenty of things to see and do in Gero Onsen.

Onsen-ji

Onsen-ji temple building

One of the top attractions is Onsen-ji, a beautiful temple that’s located at the foot of a mountain. It was founded to worship the white heron and is located on top of the spring found in 1265. The temple has sweeping views of the surrounding mountains.

Onsen-ji(温泉寺)
Entry Fee: free
Opening hours: open 24/7
Address: 680 Yunoshima, Gero, Gifu 509-2207
Access: From Gero Station it’s a 18-minute walk.
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps

Kaeru Jinja

Kaeru Shrine

Another must-visit spot is Kaeru Jinja, a shrine that’s dedicated to frogs. Frogs are another common sign in Gero, that’s because the Japanese onomatope for a frosh croak is “Gero Gero”.

Kaeru Jinja(加恵瑠神社)
Entry Fee: free
Opening hours: open 24/7
Address: 2369 Mori, Gero, Gifu 509-2202
Access: From Gero Station it’s a 10-minute walk.
Google Maps

Gero Gassho Mura

Gero Gassho Village in Spring

If you’re interested in learning more about traditional Japanese architecture and the way of life in the mountains, be sure to check out Gero Gassho Mura, a village that’s filled with traditional thatched-roof houses from all over the region.

Gero Gassho Village(下呂温泉合掌村)
Entry Fee: adults 800 yen, school children 400 yen
Opening hours: 8:30 – 17:00
Address: 2369 Mori, Gero, Gifu 509-2202
Access: From Gero Station it’s a 21-minute walk.
Website | Google Maps

Bicycle Tours in Hida Hagiwara and Mase

Cycling close to a river in Maze

For those who enjoy cycling, a bicycle tour is available in the Hida Hagiwara and Mase areas of Gero. This tour offers a unique way to explore the region’s countryside along rivers and fields and scenic vistas.

Umeseko Tour
Tour Fee: 14,000 yen
Tour hours: 3.5 hours
Address: Hida Hagiwara Station, Hagiwaracho Hagiwara, Gero, Präfektur Gifu 509-2517
Access: From Gero Station it’s an 11-minute train ride to Hida Hagiwara Station.
Website | Google Maps

Local Specialties and Street Foods

No trip to Gero Onsen is complete without trying some of the local specialties and street foods.

Hida Beef

Hida Beef Sushi stall

Some must-try dishes include Hida beef, a type of Wagyu beef that’s famous for its marbling and tenderness for example in the form of Hida Beef Sushi.

Keichan

Keichan at Yamabiko

A mix of chicken with cabbage served on a hot plate on the table is a local specialty called Keichan. One of the best restaurants to try this dish is Yamabiko.

Yamabiko(山びこ)
Opening hours: 11:30 – 14:00 and 17:00 – 19:00, closed Mondays and Sunday afternoon
Address: 1088-2 Mori, Gero, Gifu 509-2202
Access: From Gero Station it’s an 8-minute walk.
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps

Onsen Sweets

Onsen egg soft-serve

Onsen sweets are available in many of the shops in town. These desserts are made by using hot spring water to cook or steam the ingredients, resulting in a unique texture and flavor.

A traditional kind of Onsen sweet is the Onsen Manju which is steamed in Onsen steam and best enjoyed fresh.

The popular Onsen pudding is available at Yuamiya or Gero Pudding, or how about trying the unique Onsen egg soft-serve available at Yuamiya while trying the footbath there?

Yuamiya(ゆあみ屋)
Opening hours: 9:00 – 18:30
Address: 801-2, 801-2 Yunoshima, Gero, Gifu 509-2207
Access: From Gero Station it’s an 8-minute walk.
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps

Where to Stay

There are plenty of accommodation options in Gero Onsen, ranging from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious ryokans.

Yunoshimakan

Yunoshimakan from the outside, image via Yunoshimakan

One highly recommended option is Yunoshimakan, a historic ryokan that’s been welcoming guests for over 400 years.

Yunoshimakan(湯之島館)
Address: 645 Yunoshima, Gero, Gifu 509-2207
Access: From Gero Station it’s a 10-minute walk.
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps

Suimeikan

Suimeikan from the outside

Suimeikan made the list of the top 100 Ryokan in Japan, and while it is getting on in years it is still winning in the attention and service of their staff.

Suimeikan(水明館)
Address: 1268 Koden, Gero, Gifu 509-2206
Access: From Gero Station it’s a 3-minute walk.
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps

Hotel Kusakabe Armeria

Private Onsen Rotenburo bath at Armeria

This hotel rewards its guests with sweeping views of Gero Onsen, and especially the suite rooms with private Rotenburo are worth staying at.

Hotel Kusakabe Armeria(下呂温泉 ホテルくさかべアルメリア)
Address: 1811 Koden, Gero, Gifu 509-2206
Access: From Gero Station it’s a 10-minute walk.
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps

How to Get There

Gero Onsen town

To get to Gero Onsen from Nagoya, take the JR Takayama Line to Gero Station. The journey takes approximately 2 hours and is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. If you don’t have your pass yet, you can easily buy it here, even from outside of Japan.

Conclusion

Gero Onsen is a hidden gem that’s just waiting to be explored. From its fascinating history to its delicious local cuisine and stunning natural beauty, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re looking to relax in a hot spring, explore traditional Japanese architecture, or cycle through the countryside, Gero Onsen is an excellent destination for a side trip from Nagoya.


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About the author

In love with Japan and its amazing food, Lena wants to share her passion with the world. Her goal is to make everyone interested in Nagoya, her adoptive home, online through her writing and offline through unique food tours.

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