Geibikei Gorge is one of the top 100 scenic spots in Japan designated as a National Site of Scenic Beauty and a National Natural Monument. Along the Sunatetsu River, the canyon is a 2km long stretch of quay walls over 50 meters high. Not to be confused with the nearby Genbikei Gorge, Geibikei Gorge is home to Geibikei Gorge Boat Trip, a 90-minute cruise that allows visitors to enjoy the landscape; fiery red in fall, creeping wisteria blossoms in May, and crisp, clear skies in winter. A mere five minute walk from JR Geibikei Station which is covered by JR East Pass (Tohoku area), here are some of the highlights of such a beautiful gorge that can be enjoyed annually.
Exploring the Unspoiled Nature
It wasn’t until the Meiji era that Geibikei Gorge became known. Until then, the gorge was an unexplored area that was hardly known. Even the people living in the surrounding villages hardly knew about this beautiful gorge. While there are various theories, one reason for hiding such a place was to reduce the burden of a commoner to entertain the clan officials when they came for inspection. Its existence was even hidden away from pictorial maps and ancient reports (fudoki) on provincial culture, geography, and oral tradition which had to be submitted to the reigning monarchs of Japan. In such unspoiled nature, a boat ride down this beautiful gorge on a single pole is a luxurious waterfront activity that will make you forget the passing of time.
The boat runs once every hour and the cruise lasts about 90minutes. 30 minutes to reach the gorge, 30minutes to explore the area, and the last 30minutes to return. Since the river doesn't freeze completely, winter is another popular season to take a visit. Compared to green seasons, to keep the visitors warm from the harsh bitter cold winter in the Tohoku region, a kotatsu boat is prepared. Kotatsu boat is a boat equipped with a heating table covered in a blanket. Covered in deep snow, the gorge turns into a beautiful winter wonderland, but it is hard to tell its serene beauty in words and pictures. The time schedule for the ride can be found here.
Once a remote and unknown place, Geigan Sato, former headmaster of an elementary school, the mayor of Nagasaka Village, and a member of the Higashi-iwaigun congressman, laid the foundation for the development of the Geibikei Gorge with his fortune.
The name Geibi Kei (Geibikei Gorge) was given in 1910 by local volunteers, including Geigan Sato, who was a pioneer in the development of tourism. Inspired by the large rock looking like a lion’s nose at the turnaround point for the boat ride, the gorge is said to have got its name “Shishi-ga-hana”, literally translated as Lion’s Nose.
Geigan Sato, the man who turned Geibikei Gorge into a sightseeing spot
Lion's Nose (Shishi-ga-hana)
The highlight of the boat trip to the far end of the gorge is to see strange rocks and waterfalls scattered here and there. Some rocks like “Kyomeiseki” (mirror stone) is one of the strange rock that must not be missed. As its name implies, the light on the surface of the water reflects off a rock like a large “mirror”.
Kyomeiseki (mirror stone)
Once reaching the Miyoshigaoka dock upstream, visitors can land on the Geibikei Gorge and explore. One special feature to experience at this dock is throwing the "balls of luck". Sold for 100 yen per five balls, visitors will need to aim well and throw these balls at the opening in the cliff on the opposite side of the river. Seemingly easy, however, throwing a ball lightly will cause it to fall before it reaches the hole, and throwing it vigorously will cause it to hit the rock surface and break into pieces so unlike it seems, this needs some skills. These balls are engraved with different letters of kanji characters; “福 (happiness)”, “縁(wish form a good connection), “寿(wish to tie the knot/get married)”, “愛(love)”, “願 (wish for anything)”, “運(wish for luck)”, “恋 (wish to find love/partner)”, “絆(wish for strong bonding/relationship with family, friends, company, etc)”, “禄(wish for higher salary)” and “財(wish to keep the wealth)”. Out of these, visitors get to pick 5 that they want their wishes to come true.
Since the gorge is easily accessible via JR trains, if leaving Tokyo or Ueno station early in the morning, this is a great place to visit even for a day trip. Having JR East Pass (Tohoku Area) which offers foreign passport holders five-day unlimited trips on shinkansen, express, and local trains across those prefectures in the eastern Japan area covered by JR, this pass will save a lot and will be the best way to travel around.
5 minute walk from JR Geibiki Station (Covered with JR East Pass (Tohoku Area))
From Tokyo or Ueno Station
Take the Tohoku Shinkansen, stopping at Ichinoseki Station. One way journey will take 2 hours.
From Ichinoseki, take the JR local train to Geibikei Station (30 mins), and from that, simply walk another 5 minutes to the boat area.READ MORE
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