Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Geibikei Gorge

On August 1st, hubby and I visited Geibikei Gorge in Higashiyama town of Iwate prefecture. Geibikei Gorge is made of cliffs that are as tall as 100 meters and extend for approximately 2 kilometers on both sides of Satetsu River, which is a branch of Kitakami River. This gorge was carved from strata of limestone by Satetsu River. Fantastically-shaped rocks, waterfalls, and limestone caves can be found everywhere in this area. Geibikei Gorge is considered to be one of the most picturesque spots and is counted among 100 most famous views of Japan. The gorge displays spectacular views and beauty of changing seasons year round. Visitors can enjoy the flowers of wisteria during spring, deep greenery in summer, brilliant colors of the autumn leaves, and snow-covered scenes of winter.

Geibikei Gorge is located about 160 kilometers away (south east) from our home. On August 1st, we started from our home at 5 am and it took us about 3.5 hours of car ride to reach Geibikei Gorge. One of the main appeals of Geibikei is that we can take a boat trip up Satetsu River that runs between the majestic cliffs. In fact, it is a round-trip journey for about 90 minutes on large flat-bottomed boats with a stop at half way point where we can get off the boat and walk around before returning back. We purchased tickets worth 1500 Yen per person for the boat ride at a ticket counter near the gorge. The boats run every hour and ours was at 9.20 am. We still had some time left before the boat trip, and so we moved around and enjoyed the nature all around us.
Hubby standing next to a sightseeing information board near Geibikei Gorge

I am standing next to Satetsu River near the starting point of the boat trip

Hubby standing near Satetsu River

I am standing at the landing stage. Flat-bottomed boats can be seen in the background.

At about 9.15 am, we went to the landing stage and sat inside the flat-bottomed boat. The boat soon started moving slowly upstream. A boatman guided and controlled the boat with a single pole up the shallow river. He explained about various interesting spots that we came across during the ride.
Our boatman controlling the boat with a single pole

The greenery around us was fresh and clear water flowed slowly as the boatman poled the entire way during the boat trip. As we started on the boat trip, we saw a rock named Kyomei-gan (mirror rock) to our right. This rock reflects the sparkle of the water off its surface like a giant mirror.
Kyomei-gan rock

Next, we saw Fuji-iwa rock (wisteria rock) to our left. Sturdy limbs of wisteria cling to the rock, and the entire rock is painted in brilliant shades of purple during the flowering season in late May. We saw the summer fresh green leaves of wisteria.
On our way up Satetsu River

Fuji-iwa rock

Another view of Fuji-iwa rock

Next, to our left we saw a rock named Ryo-un-gan (cloud-kissing rock). In early summer, river mists veil the gorge like low-hanging clouds. The rock is named from the way in which it seems to show itself fleetingly between the clouds. The scenery looked so beautiful.
Beautiful view on our way up the river

Ryo-un-gan rock

Another view of Ryo-un-gan rock

Soon we saw a flat-bottomed boat on its return trip with many satisfied sightseers on it. After this, we saw Bishamon kutsu (Bishamon cave) to our right. At the base of the rock is a cave, inside which stands a small temple of Bishamonten, the god of war and treasure. This cave is also known to be a home for bats.
A flat-bottomed boat on its return trip

Amazing view on our way up the river

Bishamon kutsu

A small temple of Bishamonten

Adjacent to Bishamon cave is a rock named Amayoke-no-iwa (rain-shelter rock). The rock juts out like an awning, and takes its name from the practice of pulling boats over into its shelter to avoid the rain. We could not accommodate the entire rock in a single photo as our boat was too close to the rock.
Lower part of Amayoke-no-iwa rock

Upper part of Amayoke-no-iwa rock

Next, to our right was Kotokei (ancient peach gorge). A ravine cuts through the rock wall, along which a stream flows from the village above. The scene looked like a landscape painting.
Beautiful view on our way up the river


Close up view of Kotokei

The boat ride was very peaceful and we felt as if we had gone into a trance seeing all the beauty around us. So we missed seeing a few spots that the boatman explained. Soon we started getting glimpses of Sofu-gan rock (mighty man rock) to our left and Shofu-gan rock (little woman rock) to our right. These are called husband and wife rocks from the way they seem to snuggle close to each other whenever a boat passes up or down the river in between these two rocks. As we neared the rocks, we were dumbstruck by the sheer beauty of the rocks and the greenery that surrounded us.
Magnificent cliffs seen during the boat ride

Hubby enjoying the boat trip

Shofu-gan rock

Sofu-gan rock

Our boat passing up the river in between Sofu-gan and Shofu-gan rocks

Huge cliff on the left side and Shofu-gan rock on the right side of the river

We almost reached the landing stage half way down the boat trip

After about 35 minutes, the boat docked at a landing stage and all the sightseers got off the boat. Then we walked to see the remaining beautiful spots. We had about 20 minutes to look around before getting back to the boat. We took several photos of us in front of the famous scenery of the majestic Sofu-gan and Shofu-gan rocks with the flowing river in between.
The famous view of Shofu-gan (left) and Sofu-gan (right) rocks on either side of the flowing river

I am standing near the landing stage

Hubby standing in front of the rocks and flowing river

Beautiful scenery

As we started walking, we saw a rock named Kinpeki-gan (the brocade wall) to our left. The beautiful, richly variegated rock face displays an impressive and spectacular pattern.
Huge rocky cliff

Kinpeki-gan rock

Hubby standing in front of Kinpeki-gan rock

I am standing next to the river. Bottom part of Kinpeki-gan rock can be seen in the background.

Adjacent to Kinpeki-gan rock, we saw a beautiful spot named Daihisen (greater tumbling spring). The gushing spring tumbling down the massive rock face is also known as Tantan-two. Just before the Kinpeki-gan rock, there is another spot named Shohisen (lesser tumbling spring or Tantan-one) but somehow we missed seeing it.

I am standing next to Daihisen

After walking for a few minutes we reached a small bridge. While crossing the bridge, we got a beautiful view of massive rocks in front of us.
The bridge and a giant wall of rock

I am standing on the bridge (not seen). Lower portion of the giant wall of rock is seen in the background.

After crossing the bridge, we reached a tiny hill named Ransho-ga-oka (victory hill). The hill was to our left. This hill was created from sand deposited by the river current, and it provides a perfect spot from which to view Daigeibi-gan (great rock of Geibi) located on the opposite bank. Daigeibi-gan is a giant wall of rock that stands high and proud at the deepest point into the trip. The wall is a sheer majesty soaring towards the heaven overwhelming the greenery of the trees. The river disappears into a mouth-like structure at the bottom of this rock wall.
Ransho-ga-oka hill on the left side and Daigeibi-gan on the right side of the photo

Hubby standing at Ransho-ga-oka hill

At the victory hill, we purchased five small stones named undama for 100 yen and hubby tried to throw them into a small hole located on the lower right side of the huge cliff on the opposite bank of the river. These stones had charm characters carved into them which were for long life, luck, love, destiny, and a personal wish. If successful in throwing the stones into the small hole, it is supposed to bring good luck corresponding to the charm character. Hubby was successful in throwing two of the stones into the hole but unfortunately he forgot to notice what those stones represented. Anyway, it was really fun seeing people trying their luck at throwing stones.
A shopkeeper selling undama stones

Undama stones

I am standing in front of Daigeibi-gan. Lower portion of the giant wall of rock with a small hole (red arrow) can be seen in the background.

Hubby trying to throw undama stones into the small hole

Standing at the victory hill, we saw Sentai-gan (the hermit’s sash) to the right side of the giant rock wall. The pattern of diagonal stripes across the rock face gives this rock its name. Also, there is another spot named Shishigahana (the lion’s snout) partway down the great rock wall, which is actually a protrusion that extends downwards and looks just like the snout of a lion. The name Geibi, which means ‘majestic snout’, comes from the name of this rock. Unfortunately, only the side view of Shishigahana can be seen in the photos below.
Sentai-gan and Shishigahana (an angled view of the lion’s snout is seen on the extreme right)

Another view of Sentai-gan and Shishigahana

Scenic view as seen from Ransho-ga-oka hill

After enjoying the giant wall of rock for some more time, we walked back to the landing stage. We got into the boat and started on our way back to the starting point. As the boatman poled our way during the downstream ride, we again got wonderful views of fantastic-shaped rocks and greenery on either side of the river. There were a lot of fishes of various colors in the river and we enjoyed seeing them swim by.

A few photos of the wonderful views of rocks and greenery on either side of the river during the return trip

Fishes swimming in the river

Hubby watching the fishes

One of the highlights of our trip was that during the downstream ride, we enjoyed the boatman sing a local folk song called Geibi Oiwake which is a song describing the features of Geibikei Gorge. The song echoed off the cliff walls. We truly enjoyed the serene atmosphere and felt as if we were floating along the slow-moving river with the cliff looming high above. I compiled a video which has a short audio clip of the traditional folk song with video clips of both the forward as well as the return journey.

A compiled video of our round-trip boat journey along with a portion of the local folk song that the boatman sang during the return trip

We reached the starting point landing stage after about 90 minutes of fun and being in close contact with nature. The boat ride allowed us to experience the beauty of the gorge up close. The boat ride was very peaceful and the scenery around us was beautiful and relaxing. After getting off the boat, we walked back to the ticket counter area, where on a notice board several copies of a photo of our boat with all the sightseers and the boatman inside it was put up. This photo was taken by a professional photographer from the rocky banks of the river during our boat ride upstream. We bought a copy of this photo for the sake of memory.
A group photo taken during the boat trip up the river

After this, we left the place and went to see a cave named Yugendo about which I will write in the next post.

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