Especially in the colder months, a visit to Gero Onsen from Nagoya is a great idea to get away, relax and warm up your body.
Since the Edo Period (1603-1868) Gero Onsen is known as one of the three highest-quality hot spring towns in Japan, together with Kusatsu and Arima Onsen.
The waters here are mainly alkaline-based clear colored waters said to not only beautify but also improve the overall health.
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In this post, I will share with you everything you need to know about a Gero Onsen day trip from Nagoya, including what to do in Gero Onsen, what to eat in Gero Onsen and where to stay in Gero Onsen.
Where is Gero Onsen
Gero Onsen is a little town in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture not too far from Gujo Hachiman. It is located around 100 kilometers north of Nagoya and can be reached within 2 hours.
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.
Gero Onsen Pass
If you want to try different Onsen all over town it makes sense to purchase a Gero Onsen Pass or Yumeguri Tegata. A little wooden plaque that allows access to three of the more than 20 participating baths in Gero.
You can buy your pass for 1300 yen at the tourist information in town or at some participating hotels. They will also give you information on the different participating Ryokan.
Funsenchi Outdoor Hot Spring Bath
If you are looking for a completely free Onsen experience with a view try the Funsenchi hot spring. Located along the Hida River and overlooking the town this hot spring is free to use by everyone.
There are no facilities here to get changed, and wearing a swimsuit is mandatory for both genders as it is a shared bath. Don’t forget to also bring a towel to dry yourself off after relaxing in the Onsen.
If getting changed in the open seems too much of a hassle you can also enjoy the views and hot spring as a foot bath. Just find a dry spot on the surrounding stones and warm up your weary feet.
FUNSENCHI HOT SPRING
Entry Fee: free
Opening Hours: always open
Address: Koden, Gero, Gifu 509-2206
Shirasagi no Yu
This western-style white building will catch your eye when you walk by. With a free circular foot bath outside and different hot spring pools inside overlooking the Hida River and the mountains.
There is no open-air bath here, but it is a popular location which has been in operation since 1926.
SHIRASAGI NO YU
Entry Fee: 400 yen
Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. closed Wednesdays
Address: 856-1 Yunoshima, Gero, Gifu 509-2207
Sachi no Yu
If you are looking for a spacious public bath in Gero Sachi no Yu might just be the place to go. With 7 different pools including an open-air one, a sauna, and a waterfall shower this bathhouse has a lot to offer.
There is also a family bath available that can be utilized by families or couples. On busy days reservations might be required.
SHACHI NO YU
Entry Fee: 400 yen
Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 10:40 p.m. closed Tuesdays
Address: 1144 Koden, Gero, Gifu 509-2206
Gero Onsen Experience and Hida Beef Lunch
If you are not planning on staying the night but want an unforgettable experience in Gero Onsen you might want to reserve the Gero Onsen Experience and Hide Beef Lunch.
Enjoy a bath at one of the best hotels in town. Have a dip at the indoor as well as the outdoor bath.
Afterward (or before your meal) enjoy a multi-course Hida Beef lunch which includes steak, bread or rice, salad, soup, dessert, and coffee. This meal is a western-inspired fine dining experience you won’t forget so quickly.
Other Things to Do in Gero Onsen
Of course, you can’t spend your time just bathing all day. And there are some other activities in Gero Onsen worth exploring. Here are the top things to do in Gero Onsen when you need a break from the hot springs.
Wear a Yukata around Town
If you decided to spend the night in Gero Onsen I recommend checking into your Ryokan early. In most places when you arrive you can choose your own Yukata, a kind of summer Kimono. It’s not hard to put it on, so get changed right away and explore the town dressed in your colorful Yukata.
Usually, you can borrow some traditional Japanese slippers from your Ryokan to wear around town. Just be aware that they are quite uncomfortable.
Dressed in a Yukata it is much nicer to go out and take many pictures.
Enjoy a Foot Bath (Ashiyu) or Three
Dressed in a Yukata it is also much easier to enjoy the many foot baths dotted all around town. The Japanese name for a hot spring foot bath is Ashiyu. Sit at the rim of the bath, and place your feet in the hot and soothing water. If you are wearing a Yukata make sure not to let any of the fabric hang into the water.
All Ashiyu in Gero Onsen are free to use and very popular, so they can be quite crowded. But people usually only stay for a couple of minutes so you should find a spot quickly.
Make sure to bring a small towel to dry off your feet. In some places you can buy a small towel for 100 to 200 yen if you didn’t bring one yourself.
Now its time to explore the different Ashiyu in town and find your favorite one.
Explore the Gassho Village
My first stop in Gero was the Gero Onsen Gassho Village. A little area right outside town with a collection of beautiful thatched roofed houses moved there from Shirakawago. It is especially fun to visit if you cannot make it to Shirakawago itself.
Inside the little village, you can visit the different buildings and learn about life in the mountainous Hida region, with its cold winters and focus on agriculture. Exhibits at the houses show what life used to be like in these houses.
Some of the houses here have been repurposed to become shops and restaurants. You can buy your Gero Onsen souvenirs here, such as frog-shaped sweets, Hida Beef, and wooden toys.
If you are looking for something to eat inside the Gassho Village, I recommend some grilled Ayu sweetfish or having some traditional Japanese sweets such as Mochi.
Multiple workshops are going on inside the Gero Onsen Gassho Village. You can paint your own plate or cup here. But only if you plan on staying in Japan for a while. It takes months until they are finished and ready to be sent to you.
Other workshops include paper making and pottery.
The Gassho Village also has a foot bath right in the center where you can relax in the warm water for a couple of minutes.
If you are up for it climb to the top of the hill and take the slide back down to the village or try your luck at a traditional ring throwing game.
Gassho Village isn’t that big and you can explore it within an hour or two depending on what you want to experience here. But it is definitely fun for the whole family and aside from the hot springs the main attraction in Gero.
Climb to Onsenji
Onsenji is the local temple dedicated to hot springs. When in 1265 an earthquake flattened Gero the natural hot spring source dried up. The distraught villagers were lead to a new spring by a white heron. In thanks to the heron, Onsenji was built.
The temple can be found on top of a long and straight flight of stairs leading past a Japanese graveyard where family members of the influential Takekawa Family are laid to rest.
Make a Wish at Kaeru Jinja
This little Shinto shrine in the center of town is dedicated to a frog deity. You will soon realize this because of the frog statue and the cute frog carvings in the stone lanterns.
If you make a wish at this shrine the little frog will give you a message (unfortunately in Japanese only).
The Japanese words for frog and going home are both pronounced ‘Kaeru’ and for this reason, the shrine also wishes for a safe return home of all visitors.
Before you visit the shrine make sure to purify your hands at the purification basin close to the entrance.
The right way to make a wish at a Shinto shrine is by offering a single coin, bowing twice, clapping twice, putting the hands together to make a wish, and then bowing once more.
Entry Fee: free
Opening Hours: always open
Address: 2369 Mori, Gero, Gifu 509-2202
Find the Frogs
All around Gero you will find little frog statues, carvings, and figurines. The frog is the symbol of Gero Onsen. The reason for this is because the word ‘Gero’ is the same as that of a frog’s croak in Japanese which is ‘Gero Gero’.
Especially if you visit Gero Onsen with children make a game out of finding as many frog statues as possible around the town.
Food in Gero Onsen
While there is not too much to do in Gero Onsen, you can spend a good amount of time here with eating delicious and local food. Actually a day trip isn’t enough to try all the delicious food on offer.
A popular souvenir in Gero Onsen is Gero Pudding. This shop sells 6 types of pudding and is so popular that it sells out quickly and has long lines in front.
When I arrived in Gero at around 3 p.m. the shop was already closed, and when I went again the next day just after opening I had to wait for 45 minutes in the pouring rain to get my hands on the popular treat.
Now you might be wondering if it is worth to go through all the trouble for a glass of pudding. In my opinion, it really is worth it. The pudding is delicious. I tried three types: Maroyaka (standard type), Retro, and Matcha and they were all delicious.
The shop itself greets with a gigantic frog over the entrance and the entrance is designed like a hot spring bath, with fake lockers on one wall, tiled seats, massage chairs, and little washbowls used as trays for eating in. As you can imagine the whole setting is very popular as an Instagram spot.
One glass of pudding costs 450 yen.
Ontama Soft Serve Ice Cream
Another highlight of Gero Onsen is the Ontama Soft Serve Ice Cream at a shop called Yuamiya.
This soft serve is topped with a hot spring soft-boiled egg. Before eating mix the egg well with the ice cream and the rice flakes at the bottom. The resulting dessert has a delicious and creamy texture, and a flavor you have probably never tried before. Who knew egg would go so well with soft serve.
Yuamiya sells many other treats and souvenirs as well as cosmetics.
I can also recommend the hot pudding here. After you pay for it take it out of the basin filled with natural Onsen water, pour some caramel sauce on top and enjoy it still hot. Yum!
Inside the shop, you will find some tables and chairs to enjoy your treats and also a foot bath where you can sit and soak your feet in the hot spring water. That way the soft serve tastes even better.
Hida Beef Sushi
Hida Beef Sushi is something so popular it can be found all over the Hida region (Takayama, Shirakawago, Gujo Hachiman). So, it really is no wonder that Gero Onsen also has a shop selling Hida Beef Sushi.
Because of the long line in front, I skipped it this time, but the Hida Beef Sushi I tried before in Takayama was excellent.
A thin slice of marbled Hida beef on rice served on a rice cracker as a plate. The meat will melt in your mouth, and the whole flavor of the meat together with the rice is really delicious. A serving of 2 to 3 pieces of sushi cost around 900 yen.
The only thing a little bit disappointing in this hot spring town was the Onsen Manju. Onsen Manju can be found in all hot spring towns of Japan. These little red bean-filled dumplings are steamed using the naturally occurring heat of the hot springs.
In Gero Onsen, you can find them at many confectionary and souvenir shops. They are smaller than in other places and the flavor is average. If you have never had an Onsen Manju before I do recommend you try it, but if you don’t you won’t miss too much.
Something I only heard about is Milk Ramen, a type of Ramen noodle soup with a milk-based soup. It uses only locally sourced meat and vegetables and the taste is smooth and creamy. Very different from other Ramen without the oily aftertaste many Ramen usually have (not that that’s a bad thing).
You can find this dish at Toan a restaurant exclusively open in the evening not far from the center of town.
Opening Hours: 6:00 a.m. – 11:45 p.m.
Address: 237-6 Yunoshima, Gero, Gifu 509-2207
The local chicken dish in Gero Onsen is called Keichan Chicken and you will find restaurants selling this dish all around town.
Keichan is made from chicken and vegetables heated in an iron cooking plate with Miso paste. Served with white rice this dish has an amazingly fragrant aroma and a real taste of local home-style cooking.
How to Get to Gero Onsen from Nagoya
There are three basic ways to get from Nagoya to Gero Onsen. By car, train, or daily shuttle bus. All of these options are easy to use and not too expensive. Gero Onsen is really a very convenient place to visit from Nagoya.
To Gero Onsen from Nagoya by Car
From Nagoya, a very economical way to reach Gero Onsen is by car. Since the fastest way to Gero Onsen is along a toll-free road you only have the cost of gasoline and of course the car rental cost to worry about. You can find a cheap rental here on rentalcars.com.
In just a little over 2 hours and 100 kilometers you will be in Gero Onsen along scenic roads, past rivers, bridged and little Japanese villages.
To Gero Onsen from Nagoya by Train
The JR Hida Limited Express takes just 1 hour and 40 minutes to reach Gero Onsen. It stops only in Gifu and Mino-Ota on the way. This is by far the fastest and most convenient way to reach Gero. But it is not the cheapest. The one-way fare is 4900 yen, but it is free for Japan Rail Pass holders.
The non-express train takes almost twice as long (2 hours 40 minutes) but costs only half as much. 2310 yen to be exact.
To Gero Onsen from Nagoya by Bus
There is a shuttle bus for guests staying in Gero overnight. It leaves at 2 p.m. daily from Nagoya arriving at 4:30 p.m. The return the next day is at 10:30 arriving in Nagoya at 1 p.m.
This shuttle bus costs only 3700 yen return or 2800 yen one way and is a very cheap option to get to Gero Onsen. Reservation is required. If you cannot make a reservation yourself try asking your hotel in Gero about it. More information here.
Where to Stay in Gero Onsen
Staying in Gero Onsen isn’t cheap. Even during the lower season on a weekend you can expect to pay upwards of 100 US dollars per room per night. There are no hostels or other cheap accommodation options in town, so if you are on a tight budget and you want to experience Gero I recommend basing yourself in Takayama one hour from Gero and just spending a day in Gero.
For everyone else, let me introduce to you three excellent Japanese style Ryokan in Gero Onsen.
Suimeikan is a 5-star luxury Ryokan located right in the heart of Gero Onsen. On the outside, it is an impressive concrete building but hidden inside is Japanese architecture and charm.
A Japanese garden can be found in the back of the building, which you can enjoy through floor to ceiling windows while relaxing in the lounge.
A spacious hot spring bath, as well as an open-air bath, invite guests to take a break and relax. A swimming pool, spa, and fitness center are also available to guests.
Rooms are Japanese or western style. Some of the rooms feature an indoor wooden Onsen bath inside the room. Breakfast is included in the room rate and some rates include a Japanese style Kaiseki Ryori dinner.
During my visit, I spent the night at Kisoya, a 2-star Ryokan in the center of town. Don’t let the 2 stars deter you though. It is a very luxurious and comfortable traditional Japanese hotel to stay at. When checking in you can choose your personal Yukata for the day. I only wore it for dinner and to go to the bath.
The rooms are Japanese style with Tatami mats. There is a toilet and sink but no shower or tup in the room.
Dinner is served in the room in the form of a Kaiseki Ryori. We ordered an additional Hida Beef Sukiyaki hot pot, which wasn’t cheap but very delicious.
Traditional Japanese breakfast was served in the dining hall which included Hoba Miso, small vegetable dishes, salad, rice, Miso soup and some sweet tofu for dessert.
The bath for ladies at Kisoya is filled with roses each day, an experience I have never had before. There is also an outdoor bath unfortunately it doesn’t have a view because it is surrounded by walls.
For a tranquil experience in the hills of Gero overlooking the town choose Yunoshimakan, a 5-star luxury Ryokan.
The location is only a very short walk into town and a free shuttle bus is available from Gero Station.
The traditional Ryokan is surrounded by forest and a traditional Japanese garden. Enjoy the indoor and outdoor hot springs and the spectacular views of the town and surrounding mountains.
All rooms are Japanese style with Tatami mats and Futon beds. The most luxurious rooms have a private open-air bath.
Dinner and breakfast are either served in the dining hall or in the room and both are included in the room rate.
Final Thoughts on Gero Onsen
Gero Onsen is close enough to enjoy on a day trip, you will get the most out of it if you stay the night at one of the amazing Ryokan in town.
You can combine your visit to Gero with a visit to Takayama and Shirakawago, and even Gujo Hachiman. All of these are great day trip destinations, but you can explore them quite economically from Nagoya if you buy a multi-day bus ticket called Shoryudo Highway Bus Pass.
To visit all mentioned locations and more you need to buy the 5 Day Wide Course Pass. Which will let you travel on highway and local buses on 5 consecutive days. It is for tourists only and can be purchased conveniently on klook.com.
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In love with Japan and its amazing food, Lena wants to share her passion with the world. That’s why she started Nagoya Foodie. To teach about Nagoya, her adoptive home online through blog posts and offline through unique food tours.