Gero - Heaven amidst Nature
By Shroff Bharath Bhagavan. Posted on February 26, 2016
As I opened my eyes, I could hear the announcements made by the train conductor informing us that we would be arriving at Gero Station in a few minutes.The Limited. Express Wide View Hida 1 slowly came to a halt. One good thing I like about Japan is that I can tell time without looking at my watch but by seeing which station I am in. That is the level of punctuality the Japanese maintain. As soon as I came out of the station, a taxi driver was ready to welcome us (my wife, sister-in-law, and myself). I had made a reservation at one of the reputable hotels in town, Hotel Pastor.
My driver informed me that it had just stopped snowing, and I could see the fresh snow all over. We were accompanied by a cool breeze and pleasant weather all the way to our hotel. The thought of enjoying a warm onsen in the cold winter was making me impatient. But I had to wait a little longer because our room wouldn't be available until 3 p.m., so I decided to explore the places nearby. As we walked towards the station, I enjoyed the beautiful surrounding scenery and many old gassho-zukuri-style farmhouses.
When I inquired at the information center near the station, I found out Takayama was just an hour by train, and with the snow everywhere, Hida Folk Village — popularly known as “Hida no Sato” — would be the perfect place to visit. We reached Takayama Station and got the special discount ticket that combines the bus trip from Takayama Station with admission to the village for 930 yen. As soon as we entered the village, I was surprised by the view of the gassho-zukuri farm houses fully covered with snow.
The houses were built during the Edo Period (1603-1868) and were relocated to their current location. Some of the houses are around 200 years old. Each house has something distinctive about it, like the grass roof of Wakayama house and silk worm breeding at Nishioka house. Near the entrance, we purchased a stamp book along with a quiz related to Hida Folk Village. Solving those questions made our trip more exciting. At one of the houses, namely "Maeda House," they were offering free traditionally cooked rice cakes along with pickels and Japanese tea.
After we finished the quiz, we won a souvenir for answering all the questions correctly. We enjoyed our visit so much that we did not realize the time was already 5 p.m. We reached our hotel at 6:30 p.m., and we were offered welcome drinks. After freshening up, I could not wait further to experience the much-anticipated onsen. Natural hot spring, famously known as onsen, is very famous in Japan and there are a lot of different types spread all over Japan. The time I spent in the onsen was very relaxing and I got a chance to experience the hot water in the open cold air. It was great feeling. At night we were lucky enough to see fireworks near our hotel. We had a good sleep after a long day of exploring.
Again, we started our day of exploring by visiting the famous Onsenji Temple (hot spring temple). We had to climb around 170 stone steps to reach the temple ground. We had a sweeping view of the town and the Hidagawa River from the temple.
Our next visit was to the Gero Onsen Museum of Hot Spring, which is located just few meters away from the temple. Seen from the outside, the building was very small, but the amount of information stored inside the museum about onsens and their history is huge. They have a system for explaining the different types of onsen that exist in Japan with pictures and water samples. After that, I knew Gero onsen was a simple spring onsen.
Then, for the first time, we got the chance to experience ukiyoe printing, and we were able to make a picture from scratch. First, we had to apply red ink to a plate and place a piece of paper on it to print the image. We then followed the same process with blue and black ink. The finished picture was beautiful.
Foot spas can be found all over the city. A few minutes of a foot spa after a long walk will help you relax.
We had a great trip exploring Gero, and the two days we spend felt like two hours. I have seen many man-made wonders but the time spent with nature in Gero was better than anything else.
Shroff Bharath Bhagavan
Shroff Bharath has been living in Japan from past 1 year and loves travelling and trying out new foods. Now he started to explore the Shoryudo region of Japan (Central Japan).