For “hidden Japan” at its most serene and startling, take the trek out to marvel at the sea of clouds cascading over the mountains and valleys of Oboke in Tokushima Prefecture.
Start with a leisurely boat ride through the ravine or try adventurous white-water rafting. Take a brisk hike with a hair-raising vine bridge crossings on the bridges of Iya. Begin and finish each day in one of the region’s many onsens with lush forest as a backdrop. Keep an eye and ear out for monkeys, wild boar, deer, fireflies and kites.
Alternatively go view the Unkai (“Sea of Clouds”) from a viewing deck from several vantage points around the Oboke area. This white puffs that carpet the landscape are visible at dawn. People flock to this natural phenomenon from all over the world.
A pleasure boat will take you down the Yoshino River which is one of Japan’s “three greatest rivers.” You can see shoals of fish, ducks and the occasional freshwater crab. The huge rocks which border the river are classified as a Natural Treasure of the prefecture and an exceptional area of scenic beauty. Look out for the rock formations like the Sleeping Lion. The 30-minute return journey takes you to Koboke Gorge where the waters become too rapid to go further.
Navigating rivers in a placid or exhilarated fashion – the choice is yours with half a dozen companies competing to get you on board and safely enjoying the thrills and spills. The World Rafting Championship was held here in Japan for the first time in 2017. Don’t forget to don your life jacket!
Photo by: Jeremy Moorhead
If you’re there in spring, the rocks are covered with azalea blossoms which make for fine photogenic contrasts. When you’re back on dry land make time to sample the local ayu (or sweetfish) with a rustic home-made soba, a skewer of deko mawashi (grilled tofu and yam cake with Miso paste on a stick) and mountain vegetables in one of several cafes dotting the area.
Enjoy the autumnal beauty of the area at October’s month-long Iya Heike Festival. For true escapism, discover Oboke, where thrills and tradition come together.
Discover the hidden gems of all 47 prefectures in Japan.