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Geibikei: Starting to Change

By Joe Mignano
November 13, 2020

The trees of Geibikei Gorge beginning to change color

The autumn color season continues to brighten the landscapes here in Japan as places in high mountain elevations like Nikko and the Japan Alps are reaching their peak coloring.

Today, I headed to another part of the country starting to see it's trees changing color: Japan's northerly Tohoku Region. After a rather warm summer, the koyo (autumn color) "front" is moving slightly slower compared to other years, and in Tohoku, that means places in lower elevations are only just beginning to see the leaves start to change.

My destination today was one such place: Geibikei Gorge in southern Iwate Prefecture, not far from the historic city of Hiraizumi. The gorge (not to be confused with the nearby and similarly named Genbikei Gorge) is attractive all year round, but in autumn, the trees clinging to the steep stone walls surrounding the Satetsu River are quite beautiful at the peak.
Today, however, the gorge's foliage was only just beginning to change colors. I expect the colors here will deepen over the coming weekend and be at their best possibly starting sometime next week.

Even as the season was just starting here, the scenery was still lovely today as I enjoyed the gorge the traditional way: by river boat. With tours leaving roughly once an hour (1800 yen, 90 minutes), each boat is piloted by a boatman who explains, entertains and even sings traditional folk songs along the way. About halfway through, we were able to walk around an inner part of the gorge as well to take in the sights up close. All in all a very pleasant place to enjoy the season.

A pleasant walk to the boat station along the Satetsu River

All aboard!

A boatload of leaf watchers sets off

The trees along the lower shores of the rivers were still rather green today

A bit more color as you look up the gorge walls

Breathtaking views abound no matter what color the leaves are

Our fearless captain

Our boatman sang us some moving local folk songs that echoed off the walls of the quiet gorge

The point where we could disembark and walk along the floor of the towering gorge. Lots of green here still, too.

The gorge walls towering over the glistening river

Good luck and fulfilled wishes await you if you can throw a lucky stone across the river. ...Not as easy as it seems.


It was nice to see at least some trees taking on their autumn hues. The entire gorge should be covered in yellow, oranges and reds in a week or two.

Nothing wrong with being green

Enthusiastic passengers, enthusiastic koi

Come on ;)

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