The Cruise at the Foot of Scenic Cliffs
Geibikei Gorge is a natural landscape shaped by Satetsu River in the east of Ichinoseki City, Iwate prefecture. The visit of the site, officially listed among the Hundred Landscapes of Japan, consists in a pleasant boat ride guided by two boatmen on the stream at the foot of tall limescale cliffs.
Geibikei Gorge displays characteristically shaped cliffs that are more than fifty meters high along a two-kilometers boat ride. Some of these beautiful natural sculptures are only recognizable at some specific times of the day or the year, such as one of the rocks that seems floating above clouds on foggy weather. Trying to identify some of the shapes is part of the fun.
The boarding pier is located just behind the ticket counter’s building. Two boatmen welcome the passengers, one in charge of the navigation and the other highlighting the different points of interest along the way. All the explanations are given in Japanese, but an English-language brochure is available on the boat, and it describes the most interesting rock formations of the site. For example, the boat passes by a small cave sheltering an altar dedicated to Bishamonten, one of Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods and protector of Buddhism.
Picturesque cruise on the river
The end of Geibikei Gorge is reached after about half an hour. It is then recommended to land on the Miyoshigaoka sandbar and walk around to discover the scenic beauty of the place. A small bridge even allows to cross the river.
There is also a place for undama throwing. Undama are small round-shaped pebbles, and each of them was engraved with one Japanese ideogram. Provided ¥100 one can buy a five stones set, with each pebble bearing a single wish of love, wealth, longevity or luck. One must try to throw them in a pit located on the other side of the river. The one that reaches the hole may have its wish come true. This game contributes to the cheerful atmosphere of the trip.
Nearby, another cave, overlooked by a hundred- and twenty-meter-high cliff, named Shishigahana, the "lion snout", is the highlight of the place. An old legend is naturally attached to this distinctive site: if a carp succeeds in swimming upstream from the mouth of the river to this cave, it will transform into a dragon, and will fly away above Geibikei Gorge.
On the way back, while passengers admire the other of side the Gorge, one of the boatmen starts to sing a Japanese traditional song. The folk song resonates with the quietness of the water and the beauty of the landscape to create an enjoyable moment.
On cold weather days, a hot meal is served on the boat during the first half of the trip. We particularly enjoyed the Japanese winter amenities, while comfortably sitting the legs under a kotatsu heating table, covered with a warm blanket. Being able to take the cruise in a warm boat, while enjoying a good meal is an undeniable appeal for this nice water ride. Otherwise, a restaurant is also available next to the Gorge. In spring 🌸 and summer, the boat’s roof is removed, and the ride can be enjoyed in the open-air.