IYA VALLEY, JAPAN
Iya valley is a remote mountainous valley located in western Tokushima Prefecture. Located in the heart of Shikoku Island, the secluded valley is filled with steep mountain slopes and rocky gorges. Visitors could cross over vine bridges and view the spectacular sight. Iya valley is also well known for hot springs.
The Iya Valley is well known for its vine bridges, which are the Iya Kazurabashi and the Oku-Iya Kazurabashi bridges. The well maintained bridges are now a popular attraction in Japan. Besides, this remote area is also occupied by members of the Taira clan, who are also known as Heike. These people escaped the Gempei War during the end of the Heian Period.
Thirteen suspension bridges made of mountain vines (kazurabashi) were built at the Iya Valley. In the past, it serves as an important role of connecting people and goods across the river. The surviving bridges today are the Oku-Iya Kazurabashi and Oku-Iya Nijū Kazurabashi (couples bridges).
The larger of the two bridges of Oku-Iya Kazurabashi, the Husband Bridge (Otto no Hashi) stretches across the river next to a small waterfall while a slightly lower Wife Bridge (Tsuma no Hashi) is hung just a little way upstream. Constructed with steel cables hidden within the vines, the bridges were to be guaranteed safe and are rebuilt every 3 years. The bridges are also connected to each other by paved hiking trails leading to camping facilities further from the river.
Another interesting bridge is the Wild Monkey Bridge found next to the Wife Bridge. The bridge consists of a wooden cart suspended on a rope over the river. In the early days, it was used to transport goods and people over the river. Hence, visitors could try the bridge by pulling themselves across the river.
The Oboke Gorge (meaning big dangerous steps) and Koboke Gorge (meaning small dangerous steps), located a little way downstream are narrow and steep gorges at the entrance of Iya Valley. The gorges are rocky and extreme caution is needed while walking through them. Known for their beautiful natural scenery, activities such as whitewater rafting and canoe activities take place by the river.
Finally, the Mount Tsurugi (Tsurugisan) is a mountain that lies at the eastern end of Iya Valley. Its name means ‘Sword Mountain’ in Japanese and is a popular and challenging hiking destination. However, visitors could board a relaxing chairlift which will ferry people all the way to the top of the mountain, stopping at a station near the summit. From the station, the hike would take around 30 minutes to get to the peak. At the top, visitors will discover shrines, mountain huts and weather towers leading to various viewpoints of breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.