All About Japan

Fabulous Fall Foliage in Geibikei Gorge

| TOHOKU I found it! , Iwate
Fabulous Fall Foliage in Geibikei Gorge

Geibikei Gorge, located in the city of Ichinoseki, Iwate Prefecture, has two famous valleys: Geibikei and Genbikei. While the names of the valleys are similar, each has its own unique features. Geibikei, a designated national site of scenic beauty, is listed among Japan’s top 100 landscapes, and we got to explore Geibikei by way of a boat ride.

Geibi, meaning “lion’s nose” takes its name from a rock formation shaped like a lion’s nose. Sheer cliffs loom tens of meters above on both sides of the 2-kilometer (1.24-mile) extent of the gorge. Geibikei Gorge was the first place in Iwate Prefecture to be designated a national site of scenic beauty, and it’s said to have been a secluded area almost entirely unknown prior to the Meiji Period (1868-1912). The view within the deep mountain gorge, accessible only by small boats, is like a scene out of a Chinese ink painting.

The beauty of Geibikei’s scenery changes through the four seasons, each having its own charm, with spring’s fresh greenery and wisteria blossoms and autumn’s red leaves the most beautiful. On this trip, I came during the fall foliage season to admire the gorgeous landscape. On the boat ride, our navigator propels the boat with a pole while offering commentary on the scenery.

There are many ducks in the gorge and they flock around seeking food when the boats pass by. If you want to befriend these delightful ducks, don’t forget to buy some feed. There are few places where one can experience this kind of boat ride in Japan, and only in Geibikei Gorge does the navigator steer the boat so deftly with just a single pole.

After a 30-minute boat ride, we arrive at the innermost reaches of Geibikei Gorge. We stop here for around 20 minutes and visitors can see the Geibigan (Lion’s Nose Rock), origin of Geibikei Gorge’s name, and experience throwing undama (lucky stones). There are ten types of undama, inscribed with the characters for happiness, destiny, long life, love, wishes, good luck, passion, strong relationships, property or wealth, and they are very modestly priced at just ¥100 yen for five stones. The hole in the rock on the opposite shore does not look so far away, but hitting your mark is not that easy. Be sure to try your luck.

Photo: Skillfully steering the boat with a single pole

Photo: This is the Geibigan

Photo: Throwing undama

Photo: There are 10 types of undama in all

Photo: The friendly, fun-loving oarsman

On the return trip, the sound of beautiful singing suddenly comes from behind. It turns out that this is the oarsman, singing the song “Geibi Oiwake” (“The Forked Road of Geibi”), the climax of the boat ride. Together, the echoing of the singing through the mountain gorge and the lack of sounds from the outside world are very relaxing. The boat ride through Geibikei Gorge takes about 90 minutes both ways, and the tranquil, gorgeous scenery leaves a profound impression on visitors.

Video: Geibi Oiwake

Address: 467 Nagasakaazamachi, Higashiyama-cho Nagasaka, Ichinoseki-shi, Iwate-ken
Access: 5 min. from JR Geibikei Station on foot