Iya Kazurabashi Iya Valley 2
Destinations Shikoku

Iya Valley – Why You Should Travel To This Lovely Mountainous Area!

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April 26, 2020

The gorgeous Iya Valley is a quiet and remote mountainous region located in western Tokushima Prefecture, pretty much in the centre of Shikoku Island. It’s characterized by deep valleys, tall mountains, and traditional lifestyle and scenery, and this is exactly what people travel here for. Although it’s long been on the map for domestic tourists and such, it’s still a relatively foreign destination for westerners.

Back in its hey-day, Iya Valley used to be a well-known retreat for those in the Taira Clan who were defeated after losing the Gempei War (during the early 1100s) and needed a place to hide and recover. Nowadays, some of the locals still residing in the valley are said to be descendants of this clan.

Before Iya Valley became a tourist destination, it was relatively difficult to get to due to the narrow access roads, and getting in, around, and out of there was hard. There was lack of provisions to sustain tourists. Nowadays, you will actually witness the community thriving on the tourists who come from far and wide to witness the beauty of the natural landscape here.

Iya Valley in Autumn 1

 If you’re looking for a trip that will get you in touch with nature, show off the exquisiteness of the Japanese countryside, and give you some time to unwind from the heavy exploration of cities, then Iya Valley is a great option.

How To Get To Iya Valley

How To Get To Iya Valley Awa Ikeda Station

To explore Iya Valley, we recommend hiring a rental car due to its remote location. That way, you will have free reign when it comes to how long you want to stay at certain locations. There are rental car services at Awa Ikeda Station, Oboke, Takamatsu Airport and Tokushima Airport. When driving through the valley, make sure you go slow and steady, as they’re much narrower than the usual roads.

Otherwise, from Okayama or Kochi, catch the JR Nampu limited express train to either Awa-Ikeda and Oboke Station.

From Osaka, you can catch a highway bus from Shin-Osaka Station or Hankyu Umeda Station to Awa-Ikeda Bus Terminal. This will take four hours, cost around 4,650 yen, and can be booked online at Japan Bus Online.

Where To Stay In Iya Valley

Ryokan in Iya Valley – Kazuraya

Ryokan in Iya Valley - Kazuraya 2

This ryokan located right in the mountains of Iya Valley is stunning in the most traditional sense. It’s got all the features and decor of a typical ryokan, with wide windows that open up to views of the luscious valleys and forests surrounding.

Ryokan in Iya Valley - Kazuraya 2

It’s classified as two-stars, however, with its own spa and wellness centre, free Wi-Fi throughout, private bathrooms for every room, premium kaiseki dinner meals, and a relaxing public onsen bath, it may as well be five!

Ryokan in Iya Valley - Kazuraya 2

Guest Tips: Advance bookings are required for dinner and there is no restaurant on-site so make sure you include dinner in your reservation! Also, there is a shuttle service from the hotel to the nearest bus stop, which is Iyanoyado Kazuraya Hiraguri.

Book It Now: Kazuraya

Ryokan in Iya Valley – Iya Onsen

Ryokan in Iya Valley - Iya Onsen 1

Iya Onsen has set the standard in Iya Valley for premium grade accommodation. This ryokan is simply breathtaking, and with a backdrop of deep valleys and mountains in the background, you simply can’t get much better than this.

The air? Super fresh. The food? Very local. Comfort level? A-grade. R&R? 100%.

Ryokan in Iya Valley - Iya Onsen 1

During all seasons of the year, Iya Onsen will turn it up. It’s located smack-bang in the middle of a bunch of different attractions that you can visit quite easily. It offers elegant and spacious guest rooms with tatami mat flooring, Japanese futon bedding, various onsite onsen baths, and the option of catching its very own cable car to an open-air hot spring deep in the valley. Just wow.

Ryokan in Iya Valley - Iya Onsen 1

Guest Tips: You can use the public onsen, or you can pay a small fee and use their private onsite onsen! Just make sure you make a reservation. Food here is out of this world, do yourself a favour and book breakfast and dinner during your stay! The hotel also offers a free night tour out to the vine bridge nearby so make sure you take advantage of it!

Book It Now: Iya Onsen

The Best Things To Do in Iya Valley

Here is our list of the places we recommend you to visit in Iya Valley:

  • Iya Kazurabasi & Biwa Waterfall
  • Oku Iya Double Vine Bridge
  • The Peeing Boy Statue
  • Oboke Gorge
  • Mount Tsurugi

Iya Kazurabashi & Biwa Waterfall

Iya Kazurabashi Iya Valley 2

In the past, there were a whopping 13 different vine suspension bridges stretched across the valley to transport people and goods in and around. However, these days there only exists three left, and the Iya Kazurabashi is the longest and most popular one to visit. It stretches a massive 45-metres across the valley, and sits at an uncomfortable height of 14-metres across the Iya River. Although it may look super traditional and ancient, it’s actually rebuilt every three years and anchored down by strong cedar trees using steel cables so it’s considered quite safe!

Iya Kazurabashi Iya Valley 2

Visitors here will pay a small fee to cross from one side to the other. The bridge, whilst it does sway and rock from side to side, is definitely stable enough to walk across and even stand around on to take photos. Even children can participate in this! However, please make sure you hold their hands securely and walk across slowly and steadily, as they may trip or slip.

On the other side of the bridge, you can walk a little bit further and witness Biwa Waterfall, and small, cascading waterfall that’s a refreshing change of scenery from all the green forests. Around this area there are some casual local eateries that you can stop into for some refreshments and light meals. If you have time, we recommend that you duck in for some fresh handmade udon noodles and Ayu grilled fish!

Oku Iya Double Vine Bridge

 

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Of the 3 still surviving suspension bridges, two of them are located quite close to each other deep in the valley. They’re known as Oku Ita Kazurabashi, or couples bridge. How fitting! The larger of the two bridges (or otherwise known as the Husband bridge), is measured to stretch 44-metres across the valleys, whilst the smaller bridge (aka the Wife bridge) is much shorter, spanning only 22-metres across. Similar to the Iya Kazurabashi, both of these bridges have been reconstructed with steel cables for stability. Whilst they’re not technically right next to each other, you can get from one to the other via some easy hiking trails around the valley.

Crossing these bridges are quite fun, as you feel the wind swaying the bridge slightly from side to side, and viewing the Iya River upstream or downstream from the middle of the stream provides a different perspective of its beauty.

The Peeing Boy Statue

Iya Valley The Peeing Boy Statue 1

This statue is iconic throughout the Iya Valley region. Ancient folklore tells the tale that the local boys as well as tourists passing through had the idea that to prove their manliness, they needed to climb up to the very edge of the precarious cliff where this statue now stands and pee off the edge.

This statue was erected to, of course, poke fun at this, but now it’s become quite an attraction itself. However, a railing has now been constructed around the statue to deter visitors from attempting this dangerous act. Still, spotting a statue like this in the middle of a valley deep in Japan’s natural landscape is something most people probably would have never thought about!

Oboke Gorge

Oboke Gorge

The beauty of Oboke Gorge is somewhat legendary amongst the Japanese people. Amongst the outdoor activities most revered in Japan, witnessing this gorge is definitely up there. Oboke Gorge is located towards the entrance of Iya Valley, and visiting this attraction combined with Iya Kazurabashi is a popular choice for day trippers.

Oboke Gorge

Visitors to this gorge can choose to participate in a variety of activities to experience the waters. They include the most popular Oboke Sightseeing Boat Cruise, which is a very gentle 30-minute boat ride down the river where you will sometimes get quite close to the rocks.

Oboke Gorge

This is a recommended activity if you have kids or elderly people in your group, as it’s quite fascinating to witness just how still the water is, illustrated by the crystal-clear reflection of the gorges in the water. Fascinating. There is a guide who will point out various parts of the gorge, however, they will speak Japanese only so you may need to just watch their hand movements!

Oboke Gorge 4

During the warmer seasons, visitors can also participate in water rafting here as well. Yoshino River, which flows through the middle of the gorge, is actually one of the most well-known destinations in Japan for water rafting. Its beauty, climate, and water conditions make it the ideal destination for water activity enthusiasts. You can book in half day or full day rafting tours, and if this is not quite your cup of tea, you can also choose to do activities like cayoning (traveling through canyons through climbing, jumping, abseiling, and swimming) and hydrospeeding (involves jumping into fast-flowing water and being carried along at high speed whilst on a float).

  • Address: Yamashirocho Shigezane, Miyoshi, Tokushima 779-5322, Japan
  • Access: From Awa-Ikeda Station, catch the train or bus to Oboke. You can then catch a bus from the station to the gorge.
  • River Cruise Information: You can book tickets at the ticket desk when you arrive at the gorge, there is no need to book beforehand.
  • Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
  • Price: Adult: 1,080 yen, Child: 540 yen

For White Water Rafting, Happy Raft is a popular option to book your tour with.

Mount Tsurugi

Mount Tsurugi 1

What would a trip to Iya Valley be without a great hike? Mount Tsurugi, located on the eastern side of the valley, is the second tallest mountain in the entirety of Shikoku Island. Visitors who want to experience this mountain can actually take a chilled-out chairlift ride right most of the way up the mountain near its summit, and then walk approximately 30-minutes to the peak. At the top you can spend some time exploring shrines, mountain huts, and walk along various wooden boardwalks that lead around the different viewpoints of the mountain.

Mount Tsurugi 1

If you’re an avid hiker or keen for a bit of an outdoor adventure, you can actually climb the mountain from the trailhead at Mi no Koshi, which is located nearby to the chairlift station at the bottom. It is around a two-hour hike one-way.

  • Address: Higashiiyasugeoi, Miyoshi, Tokushima 778-0201, Japan
  • Access: From Awa Ikeda Station, take the bus to Kubo, and then transfer to a bus bound for Tsurugisan, and alight at the last stop which is near the lower chairlift station. The entire trip will take just under three hours, however, there are a limited number of buses a day, so make sure your itinerary. Because of its remote location and difficult access routes, we recommend hiring a car.
  • Notes: Buses from Kubo to Tsurugisan only operate on the weekends and during the warmer seasons from April until November.
  • Hours: 9:00am – 4:30pm (chairlift)
  • Price: 1,030 one-way, 1,860 return (chairlift)

Iya Valley is like an action-packed adventure and a leisurely stroll on a mountain all wrapped into one. On your trip, you’ll unlikely to come across a place as full of luscious greenery as the forests here in Iya Valley. It truly represents the beauty of Japan’s natural landscapes, and we strongly urge you to head on out here to gain an appreciation for it too.

Shikoku Island is an amazing area to visit so if you want to visit another hidden gem nearby, have a look at Dogo Onsen.

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