Iwate’s Fun Gorges (Travel): Flying Dumplings and Kotatsu Table Boat Ride
When we speak of Iwate Prefecture of Japan, people mainly envision food items from the area such as Wanko Soba noodles and Morioka Reimen cold noodles. However, there are also some amazing sightseeing spots. Since Hiraizumi became registered as a World Heritage Site in 2011, it has garnered even more attention. The two gorges we introduce here are both popular tourist destinations recognized as Natural Monuments of Japan.
The Genbikei Gorge
It is a 2km gorge located midstream of the Iwaigawa River, in Ichinoseki City of Iwate Prefecture. In 1927, it has been recognized for its amazing view and as a Natural Monument.
It is a naturally formed sculpture made from rocks piled high due to the eruption of the Kurikoma-yama Mountain which have been carved by the pressure of water through a time of over 10,000 years. Other than unique rock formations and waterfalls, visitors can view spherically shaped potholes formed by small pebbles and water pressure carving away from the bedrock. Upstream, you will see the wild rock formations and rushing waters while downstream you will see a calm and deep pool of water. Even though it is a single Gorge, you can see its different expressions.
The area was praised even by the famous Warring Period warlord, Date Masamune. It is said that he boasted that “Matsushima and Genbi are the top 2 amazing views within my territory” and visited the area many times.
The area offers different appeals throughout the four seasons. Particularly from mid to late October, the fall foliage is at its best viewing season. It is highly recommended as the contrasting colors of the emerald green waters and that of the autumn leaves are beautiful. The snowy scene of the Genbikei in the winter is also breathtaking.
<By Train/Bus> From Tokyo Station, take the Tohoku/Hokkaido Shinkansen and get off at Ichinoseki Station, Take the Iwate Prefecture Kotsu Bus, Genbikei Line from “Ichinoseki eki mae” stop to “Genbikei” (about 20 minutes). About a 1 minute walk from the bus stop.
<By Car> From the Ichinoseki IC Highway, about an 8 minute drive.
What? Flying Dumplings!?
A specialty of the Genbikei Gorge and what is known as the “flying dumpling” is the “Kakko Dango”. At the small hut, you put in money in a basket and pound the board with a wooden mallet to place your order. From the opposite shore, a basket with dumplings and tea will come soaring through the air on a rope.
The 3 skewer set of dumplings come with 3 types of dumplings, the mitarashi (a soy-sauce based sweet sauce), black sesame and red bean flavors along with tea comes out to 400 yen. The dumplings are soft and easy to eat. Hearing the refreshing sound of the flowing river water makes the experience of eating the dumplings exceptional.
Address: 211 Takinoue, Genbi-cho, Ichinoseki-shi
Hours of Operation: 9:00～16:00
Closed: No closures between April to November, Closed December through March
The Geibikei Gorge
Photo by flickr
The Geibikei, which is considered one of the 100 Amazing Views in Japan, is a gorge of about 2km that was made from the Satetsugawa River carving away at the limestone. In 1923, it has been recognized for its amazing view and as a Natural Monument. The shape of the large rock sticking out of the precipice looks like a lion’s nose, which became the origin of the name Geibi (using the kanji characters for lion’s nose).
When you situate yourself by the riverbed by a steep precipice of over 100m in height, you feel a sense of calmness overcoming your heart from the mystical atmosphere created by the grandeur of nature.
Get it Into the Hole to Have Your Wish Come True!?
There is a small hole in the precipice called “Shishi ga bana (nose of the lion)” which is how the gorge got its name. There is a spiritual spot in which you can choose an “undama” lucky ball with one of the letters “福 (Fortune)” “縁 (Relationship)” “寿 (Longevity)” “愛 (Love)” “願 (Wish)” “運 (Luck)” “恋 (Romance)” “絆 (Ties)” “禄 (Blessing)” “財 (Prosperity)” written on it and if you get it into the hole, your wish will come true. Do try your luck at it!
*Costs 100 Yen for 5 Undama balls.
Going Downstream on a Boat
A famous feature of Geibikei is the boat ride in which the boatman uses a single pole to navigate the boat. You can listen to the fun stories of the boatmen and enjoy sightseeing in a fun and friendly atmosphere. The highlight of the boat ride is the song called “Geibi Oiwake” sung by the boatman.
In the winter season when the snow flutters (December through February), the boat turns into a “kotatsu (heated table) boat” that fully protects you from the winter cold. You can have the luxurious experience of going downstream on a boat while enjoying a steamy hot pot dish seasoned with miso, called Kinagashi Nabe.
The round trip boat ride takes about 90 minutes.
Fees: Adult 1,600 Yen, Elementary School Children 860 Yen, Toddlers 200 Yen
<By Train > From Tokyo Station, take the Tohoku/Hokkaido Shinkansen and get off at Ichinoseki Station. Transfer to JR Ofunato Line, ride from Ichinoseki Station to Geibikei Station (30 minutes). About a 5 minute walk from the station.
<By Bus > Take the Iwate Prefecture Kotsu Bus, Geibikei Line from “Ichinoseki eki mae stop” (#7 Stop from Ichinoseki Station, West Exit) and get off at “Geibikei guchi”. (42 minutes)
<By Car> From the Tohoku Expressway, Ichinoseki IC, about 25 minutes by car.
Not only are Genbikei and Geibikei Gorges amazing for the grandeur of nature created through dozens of thousands of years, there are attractions such as flying dumplings and boat rides. It is a sightseeing destination that can be enjoyed for its views as well as for its experience. When you have the chance to visit Iwate Prefecture, we encourage you to visit these spots along with the World Heritage Sites of Chusonji and Motsuji Temples.