Want to appreciate the picturesque 2km gorge with cliff walls of more than 100 meters high on both riverbanks, and all you need to do is relax on a boat? Geibikei Gorge (猊鼻渓) in Iwate Prefecture is the perfect place for you! Adding to this unforgettable experience is the traditional Japanese ballad that your boatman will be singing during the 90 minutes boat ride (≧▽≦).
At Geibikei Gorge, you will find not only a lot of strangely shaped cliffs covered by different ferns and trees but also some small waterfalls. Unlike most gorges in Japan, Geibikei Gorge can be accessed in winter for visitors to enjoy its ink painting-like scenery!
Click HERE to skip to Geibikei Gorge’s access information.
The Origin of Geibikei Gorge
Where Geibikei Gorge currently is was originally just a gigantic limestone layer that was exposed by the fault around it. With the water flow from the Satetsu River (砂鉄川), the limestone layer was eroded to form the beautiful Geibikei Gorge today.
The limestone layer isn’t just eroded by the Satetsu River but also by the rain. And by the artistic skills of the rain, one part of the bizarrely shaped cliff wall has often been described as looking like a lion’s nose.
So apart from Geibikei Gorge’s pioneer meritorious person’s name has a “猊 (gei)” in it. The other reason why the gorge is named “猊鼻 (geibi)” is because of its lion nose-shaped cliff!
The Most Scenic Boat Ride At Geibikei
The beauty of Geibikei is enjoyed through a flat-bottomed boat ride that travels through the 2km Gorge (you can even bring your pets with you!). The boatmen are all well-trained and will navigate the boat through the gorge with just one pole in their hands!
The entire 90 minutes scenic trip is divided into three parts: a boat ride to Miyoshigaoka (三好ヶ丘), 20 minutes of free time at Miyoshigaoka, and the return trip.
During the boat ride, not only will the boatman introduce you to the various view spots of the Gorge, but you will also hear him/her sing the traditional ballad – “Geibikei Oiwake” (げいび追分).
Click HERE for the official Geibikei Gorge pamphlet!
Enjoying Geibikei Gorge throughout the Year
The Geibikei Gorge is a scenic place throughout the four seasons.
In spring, on top of the usual cherry blossom that blooms from late April to early May, it is the wisteria blooming on the cliff that people come to enjoy in mid-May.
Once a year on a Sunday in May (the 22nd of May in 2023), with an extra 500 yen, you can experience a tea ceremony during this scenic boat ride (茶席舟)!
For more event information, refer to the official website HERE and translate to English by Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.
In summer, if you are lucky, you will be able to see fish jumping out of the river. It has been said that people who have seen this will have a successful future (especially if it is a Koi fish) (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Autumn is probably the busiest season at Geibikei. With the cliff covered by bright fall colors, Geibikei Gorge is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iwate Prefecture!
Therefore, during the peak autumn foliage season (mid-October to early November), we recommend you arrive at Geibikei Gorge as early as 8 am to avoid the discomfort from crowdedness.
In winter, when the area is transformed into a snowy wonderland, a special boat will be operated on the river to bring you all Geibikei Gorge has to offer!
If you come to Geibikei Gorge from December to the end of February, you will be boarding this unique Kotatsu Boat (^^)/.
The table that you will be sitting at is heated from underneath. With your legs under the table covered by the futon duvet, it will be so comfortable that you might fall asleep during this peaceful ride!
And the best thing is, the price you pay to board the Kotatsu Boat is the same as the normal boats (≧▽≦).
Test Your Luck With Untama-Nage At Geibikei
Your first half of the boat trip will end at Miyoshigaoka’s (三好ヶ丘) dock. Apart from finishing your business at the toilet here if you need to (as there are no toilets on the boat), cross that bridge in the photo to find that lion-nose-like protrusion in the middle of the Daigeibi-gan (大猊鼻岩) cliff wall (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
The other thing you can do at Miyoshigaoka (probably more exciting than trying to figure out a lion’s nose out of the cliff wall) is the Untama-Nage (or lucky charm stone-throwing).
It has been said that if you can throw a piece of wooden charm, known as the “Untama” or the “lucky charm”, into a hole in the cliff on the other side of the river, your wish will come true.
You can buy these lucky wooden charms carved with different characters from a small stall close to the Daigeibi-gan (5 for 100 yen).
There are a total of 7 different charms that you can choose from, each with a different meaning: 福 (fortune), 縁 (fate/connection), 寿 (longevity), 愛(love), 願 (wish), 運 (luck), 恋 (romance), 絆 (bond), 禄 (income), and 財 (estate/treasure).
If you are able to throw those wooden charms into the small hole on the cliff wall, it is said that your prayers carved on the charm will come true (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
And even if you couldn’t manage to throw any of the charms in, don’t worry! You will find edible Untama called Untama-Manju at the souvenir shop close to the boat boarding point!
Geibikei Gorge Boat Ride’s Fare and Timetable
- Adults: 1,800 yen
- Elementary school students: 900 yen
- Children from 3 years old: 200 yen
- Pets: 200 yen
Please get your ticket from the hexagonal retro ticket office close to the boat’s boarding dock.
For the timetable of the boat ride, please refer to the official website HERE (in Japanese, but no Japanese proficiency is required to read the timetable).
How to Get to Geibikei Gorge
It is a 5-minute walk from JR Geibikei (猊鼻渓駅) Station.
If you are flying into Iwate Prefecture or traveling by bullet train from other cities, please refer to our article on Genbikei Gorge for more transportation information (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Genbikei Gorge and the Fascinating Flying Dango Rice Cake
Are you interested in trekking through beautiful nature and traditional Dango rice cakes? Head to Genbikei, a gorge that isn’t too far away from Geibikei Gorge, for some breathtaking scenery and to see some rice cakes “flying” in between the gorge’s steep cliffs!
For more information, please refer to our article on Genbikei Gorge!
Enjoy a Cultural and Scenery Feast in Hiraizumi Town
Hiraizumi town (平泉町), once Kyoto’s rival for its refined culture and elegant surroundings in the 12th century, still retains its charm and traces of former greatness. If you are after a cultural and scenery feast, it is the destination that you don’t want to miss!
To find out more about this town that isn’t too far from Genbikei Gorge, refer to our article on Hiraizumi!