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onsen is an open air hot spring. It used to be free too, but since May
1996, a small fee is required to get into it.
The baths for men and woman are separated, and so is the dressing rooms. It looks very much like an open air hot spring belonging to a ryokan, but there is no ryokan near by.
From Gifu city take route 156 and then route 472 to Meiho village. Pass through the village and continue all the way to where a toll road starts. Here take a little road on your right side up the mountain. After a few turns, you will see Meiho onsen.
I had read in some book that Meiho onsen would only be free until May 1996. Since I take a special pleasure in going to free hot springs, although it is very expensive getting there, I of course wanted to go to Meiho onsen while it was still free. I took of some morning, and by early in the afternoon I arrived in the area where Meiho onsen is located. I drove around for a while, but was not able to find it. At one time I came to a toll road, but took a narrow winding road over the mountain to save the money. On the other side I went further down the road, but could still not find the hot spring. I finally stopped and asked for directions. I was told to go all the way up to the toll gate and then take a little road up the mountain side. I would never have thought of that. When I see a sign for a toll road I usually turn off that road.
I finally found the hot spring and got inside. The dressing room was very large. I undressed and got out and washed my self thoroughly before getting in the bath. After having gotten in the bath I saw a sign saying "Do not wash yourself using soap and shampoo". Too late, I had already done that. Isn't that what one is supposed to do in a Japanese hot spring anyway?
While I was sitting in the hot spring, a bunch of guys on motorcycles came in too. They left early again, and when I finally left, I met them outside. They looked at my Harley, and my stuff on the back of it, and asked if I was touring Japan. I told them that I was only out for one week-end, which seemed to surprise them. I spend the rest of the week-end driving around in Gifu, and did not get in any other hot springs on that trip.
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