24 Nov One Night Stay in Gero Onsen
Gero Onsen is a small town located in the Gifu Prefecture. It is nestled among mountains and famous for its hot spring waters. We visited for a one night stay between Kyoto and Tokyo.
Getting to Gero Onsen from Kyoto
From Kyoto Station we first took a shinkansen to Nagoya Station. This train ride was just over half an hour. From Nagoya Station, we then rode the Limited Express (wide view) Hida to Gero Station. This part took one hour and forty minutes.
The train is called wide view as it has larger windows to offer a better view of the scenic journey. Along the way you pass by country homes, farms, rivers and stunning mountain views.
Getting to our accommodation
We arrived at Gero Station and made our way outside to see if our hotel shuttle had arrived. It hadn’t, we waited a while to see if it would come, it didn’t.
The night before we had received an email from the hotel Bosenkan, confirming our reservation and stating the shuttle bus times. It would meet each train between 1:30pm and 5:30pm. Our train arrived at 1:28pm and we thought it would be close enough to fall into the shuttle bus running times. We were wrong.
My Dad suggested getting a taxi but there were none waiting and we would need two for all of us and our luggage. Checking google maps, it was only a 1km walk from Gero Station to Bosenkan. So, off we went. We walked uphill and thought we hit a dead-end so, turned back and walked up the next block. We walked more than 1km and no one was very happy at this stage. Should have emailed back to check if the shuttle could meet us. Lesson learned.
Gero Onsen Gassho-mura is a small village style museum with ten thatched-roof houses. After checking into the ryokan we went out to explore the area as we had limited time. It was forecast to rain the next day so we decided to visit the museum that afternoon.
We arrived just after 4pm which meant we had one hour until close time. Following the path, we viewed the gassho houses, some of which can be entered. The uphill walk is definitely worth it once you see the backdrop of the village. There are lots of green plants and colourful flowers throughout. Although it is only small, this place felt special. Our four-year-old loved it. There are frogs hidden everywhere (gero gero is the noise they make in Japanese) and his favourite was the ponds of koi fish. You are able to feed them with food that can be purchased nearby.
Gero Onsen town is small but very picturesque. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience as much of it as we would have liked. We arrived in the afternoon and the next day we only had the morning. It was raining and a lot of stores weren’t open yet. We did, however, enjoy walking through town on our way to the museum and back.
When we visited in early Summer, everywhere was green. The grass was growing along the Hida River and forested mountains surround the town. To get to the museum we followed a tree-lined path along the stream running uphill. I liked seeing the traditional Japanese houses along the way. We passed by a Lawsons convenience store which stood out as a modern building in an old town.
It was very quiet with only a few people around. Perhaps as it was summer and Gero Onsen, as its name suggests is a popular place for onsen.
Along with Arima and Kusatsu, Gero is known as one of the top three onsens in Japan. The therapeutic waters are what makes the town famous. The first hot spring you will see is the open-air bath, located alongside the river, just down from the bridge. The town has three public bathhouses and ryokans open their baths to the public at certain times. A spa pass is available to purchase which allows entry to three of the ryokan baths.
Walking around town, you will find free foot baths, we also found a hand spa.
Gero Onsen Accommodation – Bosenkan
The main reason for choosing to stay in Gero was so my parents could experience a smaller town and a ryokan stay. Bosenkan was established in 1817 and I booked us Japanese style rooms. After staying in a small ryokan in Takayama, Tim felt Bosenkan felt less traditional. It does have modern touches such as elevators, a souvenir store and western beds are available in some rooms.
We had a standard Japanese style room. Entering bought us to a small area with space to leave shoes. The toilet was to the left and a small room with a bath, shower and sink to the right. A step leads to the tatami floor of the main room. There was a small low table and chairs on the floor and complimentary snacks. The room had a tv and a hot water dispenser for making tea.
A separate seating area with two chairs and a small table was next to the large window. From the window, we could see the Japanese garden and koi pond below. We also had a view of the mountains, Hida River and rail bridge.
Later while we were having dinner in the dining room, our futon bedding was set up. We had three beds, which we found comfortable. I like having the kids on futons on the floor as I don’t have to worry about them falling out.
Dinner was a traditional kaiseki course and served in a dining room. We were ushered to our room, taking our shoes off at the entrance and knelt at the Japanese table. We were served a variety of dishes including seafood, tofu and vegetables. There was a delicious soup with beef and mushrooms that were cooked over a little burner. Fletcher’s kids meal was amazing and a lot of food for the price.
Breakfast was also served in the dining room and included had egg, rice and fish. I didn’t manage to take any photos of our food as I was controlling the nine-month-old who wanted to grab everything.
I didn’t try any of the baths at Bosenkan but they have a variety to choose from. The open-air bath looks wonderful. We did all try the foot bath at the end of the day which was great for tired feet. The foot bath is located in the middle of the garden and has fantastic views.
At the back of Bosenkan is a large garden area. In the middle sits the foot bath and off to the side is a koi pond. There is an open lawn area that provides spectacular views of the Hida river, rail bridge and the surrounding mountains. This was a great space to let the kids have some free time and they loved watching the koi fish in the pond.
Our verdict on Bosenkan
Overall our experience at Bosenkan was a positive one. As I said Tim was comparing it to our stay in Takayama which was very different but Bosenkan still offered a look into traditional Japan. The beds were comfortable, the food enjoyable and the garden and views were spectacular. Click here to check the latest prices for Bosenkan.
It may have been a very short visit but the little time we did have in Gero was wonderful. Our four-year-old enjoyed spotting frog themed things around town and he loved the koi ponds at the museum and Bosenkan. Gero Onsen is a peaceful and beautifully picturesque town. It made for a great rest stop in between two busy cities and showed a different side of Japan which is exactly what we wanted.