The end or beginning of a year should be a time for peaceful reflection. The din of your everyday life may be a distraction, though, so why not venture into the tranquil nature of Geibikei Gorge in Ichinoseki, Iwate Prefecture, for some peace of mind.
Here you can float on the gorge in man-powered yakatabune (roofed pleasure boats) to witness a two-kilometer-long stretch of tall limestone cliffs along the Satetsu River. Until Feb. 29, passengers can shrug off the cold air and get cozy as the boats are equipped with kotatsu (low tables with heaters).
For 90 minutes, the boat will glide past various oddly-shaped snow-covered rock outcrops, which your oarsman or oarswoman will explain to you. To cap off the return leg of the trip, the rower will belt out "Geibi Oiwake," a folk ballad about the gorge.
For a more auspicious trip and a way to start your year on a positive note, make sure to buy undama ("fortune stones") at the halfway point, Miyoshigaoka. There are 10 different types of stones to choose from, including longevity, romance and luck. Local legend says that your wish will come true if you successfully throw at least one of the stones into a hole on the Daigeibigan cliff across the river. (Yuki Yamauchi)
No boat services are available from Dec. 22 to 25.