Located in the center of the Japanese island of Shikoku is Iya Valley, a relatively unexplored tranquil spot in western Tokushima Prefecture. The valley is steep, mountainous and several vine bridges allow for hiking gorges cut by the Iya River. In other words, it’s the perfect place to explore Japan’s local culture, food and nature.
Hike and cross vine bridges
The area used to have 13 kazurabashi (vine suspension bridge) for valley dwellers to use. Only a pair of the bridges that cross the valley stand today and travelers can hike them just as the locals did! First, head upstream and try the Oku Iya Niju Kazura double-vine bridge to get a feel for things before crossing Iya Kazurabashi.
One of the three rarest bridges in Japan, Iya Kazurabashi is 45 meters long, two meters wide and 14 meters above the Iya River. This bridge will make even the most die-hard adrenaline junkies quake in their boots, but in reality, it’s very well-maintained and is rebuilt every three years.
Mysterious statue and onsen
The area around Oboke City is filled with staggering natural beauty and a few surprises. If you’ve always wanted to see the iconic Manneken Pis bronze statue in Brussels, you can knock that off your bucket list because Iya Valley has its own “peeing boy statue” — except he’s 200 meters above sea level!
If you manage to make your way unscathed to the most dangerous spot in the valley, known as Nana Magari, you will be able to find this statue. Just don’t try to imitate him. It’s said that the statue was erected because local boys and tourists couldn’t resist the idea of proving their manliness by getting dangerously close to the edge and relieving themselves.
You can’t come this far to enjoy unspoiled nature and outdoor activities without getting in on some hot spring action. In fact, a visit to Hotel Iya onsen is more than enough to help fulfill your heart’s wanderlust. In order to reach the hotel’s rotenburo, or open air bath, you take a five-minute cable car ride some 170 meters down into the valley, a sight that is sure to be spectacular in autumn when the trees in the valley come alive with color.
You are sure to find true serenity as you relax in an open-air bath located alongside the flowing Iya River. Tucked deep within the valley, there’s nothing but the singing of birds and the sound of wind rustling in the trees. Isolation never felt so good!
Interested in hiking more nature in Japan? Check out our hiking section.
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