A delightfully scenic spot in the often-times skipped over prefecture of Iwate, Genbikei Gorge is where you can leisurely spend a couple of hours with nature and some flying dango — the tradition of Japanese sweet sticky rice balls that arrive in style.
But before the dango comes a nice hike. Genbikei Gorge is located in southern Iwate in Ichinoseki, the second-largest city in the prefecture. While getting to the best photo spot may require some careful jaunting on big rocks, there is a designated walking path suitable for visitors of all ages.
The walking path begins near the parking lot and covers both sides of the 2-kilometer-long canyon, taking about 30 minutes to finish. You will be surrounded by trees along the way and cross a few bridges over the marble-blue Iwai River that flows through the gorge. The lego-looking rocks along the gorge vary in shape and size. Sometimes, they pile up on top of each other and create beautiful mini waterfalls.
At one of the most popular viewpoints of the gorge at the beginning of the path, you will see a rope and a basket hanging from it near a pavilion. The long rope is connected to a dango shop called Kakkoya located on the other side of the gorge.
The flying dango works like a paper cup phone, but instead of voice, you will have sweets delivered to you in a basket, through a rope. A little confusing to the untrained eye at first, but yes, the basket is where you can place your order for some chewy dango! Simply place ¥400 in the basket, hit the gong to let the shop know you’ve paid, and a staff will start pulling the rope to receive the basket.
Very shortly after, your order will fly to you in the same bucket. As thoughtful as Japanese hospitality is, you will also get green tea with your order of dango. The Japanese dessert comes in three different flavors: sesame, sweet soy sauce and red bean paste. You can also visit the shop itself and eat in—it is only a five-to-10 minute walk away.
Sahara Glass Park
Get a feel of Venetian glassmaking at the Sahara Glass Park right next to Genbikei Gorge. Not only can you observe professional craftsmen blow glass in the studio, but also can you get your hands on trying to do the same thing.
At the park’s huge store, you will find more than 100,000 glassware from all over the world that are available for sale. While most glassware is tableware, you will also find small but elaborate accessories and home decorations. It is easy to get lost in the myriad of colors and elegance there.