7 ways to enjoy the hidden "Iya Valley" in Tokushima

7 ways to enjoy the hidden
The secluded valley of "Iya" is located deep in the heart of the mountains. Selected as one of Japan's 3 greatest secluded places, it is a precious place where you can sense the presense of people and nature living close together.
This time, I would like to introduce 7 ways on how to fully enjoy the nostalgic scenery of Japan at the hidden village of "Iya".

1. Experience the lives of the people in a village covered in mist at "Ochiai Village".

祖谷 落合集落
Ochiai Village located in Eastern Iya was selected as an "important preservation district of historic buildings". On the continuous V-shaped valleys of Iya's terrains, there is almost no level ground. For this reason, the houses are built along the slopes. The difference of elevation in Ochiai Village is 390 meters. There are many houses built as if they are clinging on to the steep mountain that is taller than the Tokyo Tower. From the "Ochiai Village Observatory" on the opposite side, you can get a view of the whole village.

You can feel some faint power of the people and nature from the nostalgic sceneries of thatched houses and farmers working on fields of the steep hill from in between the mountain fog.

【Address】Ochiai, Higashi-Iya, Miyoshi, Tokushima

2. Observe the "Shoben Kozo" statue taking on the challenge of the vast nature

祖谷 小便小僧
On the top of a cliff, there is a humorous Mannekin Pis statue facing the vast nature of the continuous v-shaped Iya valley..
It is said that the statue was made from a story about how children would test their courage on this cliff many years ago.

In autumn the valley becomes filled with colorful autumn leaves from the bottom to the peak of the valley. During the winter, you might feel some respect for the statue of the dedicated child who continues to test his courage through the cold snowy winter.

3. Feel the warmth of nature by crossing the "Oku-iya Kazurabashi Bridge"

奥祖谷 かずら橋
The Kazurabashi Bridge is suspended over the rich green gorge of Oku-iya. This bridge was built using vines called "shirakuchikazura" that weigh a total of 5 tons. Every 3 years, the bridge has to be rebuilt by hand. This bridge completely made of nature is absolutely thrilling, as it will make creaking noises when you walk across it.
奥祖谷 かずら橋
If you grab onto the handrails, you can feel the warmth of nature from the vines that are full of moisture.
Legend has it that people of the Taira clan who were running away from a battle that they lost against the Genji clan built this bridge. They used vines when building it, because it was easy to cut. You may be able to have a different experience if you tried to remember this story when you walk across it.

There is another Kazurabashi Bridge in Iya.
Go a little further to the Oku-iya Kazurabashi Bridges

The Oku-iya Kazurabashi Bridges are two bridges placed in a hidden sightseeing spot. The bridges are called the "Husband Bridge" and the "Wife Bridge". These two bridges are not well known, so there are usually no tourists in the area at all.
It is highly recommended if you want to fully enjoy the vast nature of Oku-iya.

【Address】620 Sugo, Higashi-iya, Miyoshi
【Price】Adults: 550 yen, Children (elementary school): 350 yen
【Hours】Sunrise to sunset

4. Ride the boat down the "Oboke Gorge" scattered with deformed rocks

At the Oboke Gorge, you can experience a boat ride up close to the breathtaking landscape of deformed rocks and the V-shaped valley. This product of nature created over many years was designated as a natural monument of Japan, because it is an important place that helps understand the history of the islands of Japan.
How about exploring the mysteries of nature by viewing the large rocks of strange shape, while being rocked in a boat?

5. Enjoy a blissful time at one of Japan's 3 greatest hidden onsen, "Iya Onsen"

The Iya onsen is an onsen with water flowing directly from a hot spring source, located deeply at the bottom of the valley. It is one of Japan's 3 greatest hidden onsen, including the Niseko Yakushi Onsen in Hokkaido and the Yachi Onsen in Aomori.
To get to the onsen, you must go down a cliff with an inclination of 42 degrees in a cable car. While on the cable car, you can enjoy a large panoramic view of the magnificent scenery of the mountains. The onsen has alkali water with minerals, and it is good for your skin.

You will definitely be able to have a blissful time while listening to the sounds of the rivers and the birds chirping far back in the mountains.

【Address】367-28 Matsumoto, Matsuo, Ikeda, Miyoshi, Tokushima
【Price】Adults: 1,700 yen, Children: 900 yen
(Observatory bath)Adults: 600 yen, Children: 300 yen
【Hours】 17:30~18:00 ※Reception until 17:00

6. Greet the scarecrows of "Nagoro Scarecrow Village"

As you walk down the village deep in the mountains, many scarecrows will suddenly appear in front of you. They somewhat look familiar, each with different unique facial expressions that you will not get tired looking at them.

This village in the Higashi-iya area was affected by aging and depopulation, and now has more scarecrows (more than 180) than people. There are many scarecrows placed in places like a closed-down school and a bus stop. Each of these scarecrows are engaged in activities like socializing and farming, and they look as if they are praying for more people to come back to the village.


7. Stay a night at the "Norin-Gyoka Guesthouse" and experience living in the mountain village

The "Norin-Gyoka Guesthouse" is a residential facility where you can experience the living in the mountain village.
There are several of these farming and fishing guesthouses, and each of these facilities offer a different experience. For example, you can do many things that you cannot do in urban cities, such as making soba noodles, doing farm work, or chopping wood.

Some of the houses used to be old private houses and were reformed into guesthouses, leaving its old architectural style. The experience of spending time with the people of Iya and sitting around the hearth of the houses will certainly be a precious one.
This is the food from the guesthouse that I stayed in called"Kajiya Iya Romantei". The meal of local ingredients was delicious. Another part of the fun was listening to the stories by the owner who knows everything about Iya.

Norin-Gyoka Guesthouses around Iyahttp://nishi-awa.jp/sora-acmo
In conclusion, these are the 7 ways to enjoy the hidden valley of "Iya" in Tokushima. In addition to Iya, there are more magnificent sceneries and interesting legends that have been told for many years. How about taking a visit and searching for the hidden fascinations of the valley?

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