Close your eyes; now imagine the soothing feeling of hot spring water running all over your skin. Are you relaxed?

With the frantic, but fun schedule we kept on our April trip to Japan, it would not have been complete if we hadn’t gone to an “onsen” (Japanese hot spring). And one of the top hot springs in Japan is the Gero Spa.

My wife and I traveled to Gero leaving from Nagoya by way of the JR Express Hida train on the Takayama main line.

Our host greeted us, took our luggage and escorted us to the courtesy shuttle van. It was late and very dark so we were unable to see the beautiful surroundings during our three minute ride.

Our hostess met us at the entrance and took us on a quick tour before showing us to our tatami room. The bedding had already been laid out so we took a quick nap before heading down to the spa.

When we got there my wife ( She is Japanese) turned to me and said “see you later”. Wait I thought we were supposed to go in together in our wrap around towels or swimsuits. I’d only seen pictures and imagined it like a giant co-ed swimming pool. But no it’s totally separated with men on one side and women on the other.

Peeking through the small window into the hot springs bath and seeing three older naked Japanese guys, I thought… let me wait awhile they’ll probably be leaving soon. Not so, two of the guys were sitting on plastic stools lathering up in front of the showers and the other guy was floating in the pool.

I finally went in; still in my boxer shorts (I’m a little shy). It’s hard to try and sneak in unnoticed, being a six four American and on the “husky” side. I sat on the edge of the big bathtub and stuck my feet in. Wow that felt great!

Finally “oyasumi nasai (good night)” older naked Japanese guys.

I hopped in and floated around for about twenty minutes until my fingers started to prune. My skin felt so good when I got out and I slept really well that night.

We woke up at 5 a.m. and went back down. At that hour it was empty. I would have liked to stay in forever and even bottle some water to take with us.

When we returned to the room we enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the Hida River and the Japanese Alps in the distance. It was a gorgeous spring day.

Our gracious hostess delivered our breakfast which consisted of a half boiled egg, tofu, miso soup, daikon, white rice and one of the tastiest fish I have ever eaten, yamame (a fresh water fish).

When we finished, our spa host drove us back to the train station and we spent a little time souvenir shopping in the small town of Gero.

Our Gero Onsen experience was both relaxing and refreshing. And it only cost eight thousand yen including breakfast.

We’ll definitely be going back on our next visit to Japan. Perhaps in the fall.

Gero Onsen Tourist Information Website

Gero Onsen Ryokan Association Website