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Flying Dango From Kakko-ya At Genbikei Gorge
While traveling through the Tohoku region of Japan we made a quick stop in Ichinoseki because we heard about two stunning gorges that are known for their scenic views and a special treat that “flys” over one of these gorges – flying dango!
What is the Genbikei Gorge?
First off, the Genbikei Gorge is a stretch of the Iwai River known for its beautiful rushing bright blue water. The rugged boulders are covered in beautiful foliage year-round including sakura trees in the spring, azaleas in the summer, and stunning colors of autumn leaves in the fall.
Next to Genbikei Gorge is another gorge called Geibeki Gorge, not to be confused with one another despite the similar names. But it is also a scenic place to check-out while visiting Ichinoseki. You can even go for a pretty boat ride through the gorge.
What is “Flying Dango?”
Now… What is dango? Well, dango is a traditional Japanese sweet rice dumpling that is made from sweet rice flour and sometimes topped with a subtly sweet paste or glaze.
While most dango can be purchased at convenience stores, grocery stores, or street food markets or stands, Kakko-ya has a unique twist to how you order and are served their specialty dango – they “fly” it over a gorge in a basket!
Where is Genbikei Gorge Located?
Genbikei Gorge is located outside of the city of Ichinoseki in the town of Genbicho. As I spoke about briefly above, Genbicho is known for two river gorges known as Geibikei Gorge known for its scenic boat rides and Genbikei Gorge for the flying dango experience which we will be introducing you to in this post!
How To Get To Genbikei Gorge
There are a few different routes you can take to get to Genbikei Gorge from Ichinoseki.
TRAVELING BY BUS
From JR Ichinoseki Station take the #9 or #10 bus on the Genbikei/Mizuyama Line to the Genbikei Stop (About 25 minutes).
TRAVELING BY TAXI
Take a taxi from Ichinoseki Station (About 12 minutes).
TRAVELING BY CAR
Drive from Ichinoseki on highway 342 (About 10 minutes).
- Kakko-ya: Location to Order Flying Dango
Getting Flying Dango from Kakko-ya
After we left the bus stop for Genbikei Gorge, we walked to the southern edge of the gorge. There we saw a few other people there waiting so we knew we were in the right place!
The History of Kakko-ya
Kakko-ya has been serving dango at Genbikei Gorge since 1878. The founder of this unique dango shop, lovingly nicknamed “cuckoo” decided that while he wanted to make dango for his customers, he also wanted to give an experience. Thus the birth of “flying dango” came to be.
Cuckoo began by “flying” the freshly made dango in a basket from his shop to the other edge of the gorge where customers would receive them. Now, Chiba-san, the grandson of Cuckoo, and his son carry on this tradition so you can still enjoy it today!
Experiencing “Flying Dango”
When we first arrived, we waited in a short line on some rocks on the side of the gorge until we got to the front of the line. From there, a basket with a rope attached was sitting above a rock with a paper inside that said “where are you from?” There was also a marker and a sign to place our money in the basket and hit a wooden mallet when finished.
We filled out the paper, put our 400 yen in the basket, and hit the woodblock. With a sift motion, we saw the basket being quickly lifted over the gorge to the small dango shop on the other side.
At first, we were wondering why he was asking where we were from. But then we heard the faint sound of our National Anthem. As we looked up, we saw the U.S. flag waving from the window of the shop as our dangos flew towards us!
When we looked in the basket it had our dango in a box placed on top of a few glasses of cold green tea. We were shocked it didn’t spill considering how fast the basket was flying! We grabbed our goodies, waved to the shop owner, and walked to a nearby rock to enjoy our dango and tea.
Once we opened the package we noticed that there were three different flavors to enjoy with each skewer having five dango each. The flavors are goma (black sesame), anko (sweet red bean), and mitarashi (sweet soy sauce glaze). We loved the difference in all three flavors and the dango was perfectly soft and chewy!
After eating our dango, we walked on the rocks by Genbikei Gorge to admire the water. Don’t miss out on the beautiful scenery here! The contrasts of the gray rocks and the foliage in all seasons makes for an especially scenic view.
Visiting The Kakko-ya Shop
After spending some time admiring the gorge, we decided that we wanted to visit the shop and see what was happening on the other side where the dango was delivered from! Little did we know, we were in for yet another surprise once we arrived at Kakko-ya.
When we walked into the store we noticed that there were a number of tables where those who wanted a different place to enjoy dango could order and eat. One of the waitresses saw us and asked if we wanted to sit or go upstairs to see the flying dango in action – of course, since we had already eaten dango, we chose the latter!
We took off our shoes and made our way up a steep staircase where we found a small room and the dango master himself, Chiba-san! All over the walls were photos of him and his customers from all over the world and flags from every country.
He quickly ushered us over to the window with a huge smile on his face as he happily showed us how the flying dango system operates. While it’s quite simple to use I’m sure it’s exhausting pulling in the rope all day and quickly at that!
He then allowed us to use the rope pulley to bring the basket towards the window and serve up some dango ourselves! It was a fun, one-of-a-kind experience so if you have extra time make sure to stop in the store so you can also take part.
Once we both got some “flying dango lessons”, we took a quick picture with Chiba-san so we could remember this fun moment! He insisted that we hold our country’s flag in the photo too so he could hang it on his wall and remember where we visited from. 🙂
At the end of our time with Chiba-san, he took our photo and printed it out to keep as a souvenir and reminder of our time there! Now it hangs on our fridge with a number of other photos from our trips. 🙂
We had such an enjoyable adventure at Kakko-ya and Genbikei Gorge! If you are traveling through the Tohoku region this is absolutely worth visiting.
Who wants to visit Kakko-ya and experience the flying dango at Genbikei Gorge for themselves?