Falling in Love with: Iya Valley
It's unfortunate most of Japan Deluxe Tours first time clients only stick around to see the highlights between Tokyo and Kyoto, but leave before heading south to the scenic islands of Kyushu & Shikoku. For anyone who's joined us for a Grand Tour or Southern Japan Tour package has explored a bit of the southern island of Shikoku, but today we wanted to go over a few reasons why we love exploring Iya Valley.
While not as popular as Tokyo or other destinations, nature-lovers, photographers, and travelers of all ages can come to appreciate the gorgeous sights, fragrant Japanese flowers, and the relaxing hot-springs waters along this scenic island. Continue reading to find out a few of our favorite tourist attractions to enjoy when heading south to Iya Valley.
1) Vine Bridges
One of the most popular attractions in Iya Valley, the region is famous for it's numerous Japanese vine bridges. The valley is rather remote compared to the rest of Japan, and the bridges were once the only way to navigate the territory. It was believed the remote location and abundance of mountains made Iya Valley a popular place for refugees and defeated warriors. The bridges were believed to be made of vines in the event the bridges needed to be cut to avoid conflict or battles.
While the area is modernizing and access becomes easier, the Vine Bridges continue to be a popular tourist attraction. One of the most popular vine bridges, the Oku-Iya Kazurabashi is a double vine bridge travelers can cost for a small fee. Just a short scenic hike from the bridge is a small water fall, perfect for pictures. Tip of advice, don't wear heels when crossing the bridge and watch your step to avoid having your foot slip through.
2) Traditional Japanese Village
Scattered around Iya Valley are numerous traditional homes, known as kayabuki or minka. Many of these thatched-roof houses have been converted to inns, restaurants, or historic sites instead of being used as personal dwellings. Some of the houses, including the thatched-roof houses of Ochiai Hamlet have been greatly restored and now are used for lodging for tourists. The homes have been updated to feature modern day comforts and amenities while still maintaining a traditional facade in a relaxing environment along the Japanese mountains. Those who stay at the traditional Japanese thatched-roof houses can enjoy classes taught by locals and exploring the local scenery without being bogged down by the loud-noises and bright lights of the city. Many of the houses feature sliding glass doors to enjoy the view of the mountain scenery with the comfort of a warm cup of tea in hand.
3) Scarecrow Village
Just a short hike down from the traditional Japanese thatched-roof houses and you'll find yourself in another mysterious tourist hot-spot. Dubbed the
Scarecrow Village, this spooky village features a higher population count of scarecrows to people. Made by Ms. Tsukimi Ayano, Ayano was a former resident who moved back to Nagoro years ago. As a way to honor those who once lived in the village, Ms. Ayano began making scarecrows and placing them around the village. Pretty soon, more scarecrows began popping up until the village is outnumbered humans to scarecrows at a rate of 30 to 400. Without anyone around but the scarecrows, the sight is either beautiful or terrifying depending on who you travel with. Despite the slight scare-factor, the scarecrow are fun to take pictures with and are a unique way travelers can honor the past.
4) Snowball fights & Sports
Relaxing and lounging about is fine and dandy for mom and dad, but when the kids get rambunctious and want to go out, Iya Valley has quite the offerings. If the Scarecrow Village is a bit much, there's rafting and water sports to enjoy along the crystal clear waters of Oboke Gorge. Similar to Hokkaido, while the Summer holidays can sizzle in Tokyo and the rest of Japan, Shikoku enjoys a more mild climate during the muggy months. With that in mind, plenty of the local Japanese people and travel savvy vacationers know Iya Valley is perfect to beat the heat while enjoying the best of Japan. Enjoy water sports or wonderful nature hikes with the family during your summer vacation.
For those looking to travel during the winter holidays, there's a special event that you won't want to miss with your family. Titled the Yukigassen, this massive snowball fight event puts a new meaning to winter fun. Following rigid rules and avoiding a
Free-for-All format, the Yukigassen event in January takes advantage of the fresh snow and terrain for an exciting event. The winners qualify to go on to a larger tournament later in the year.
5) Japan's Weirdest Statue
If you do plan on enjoying some nature activities through Oboke Gorge, ask your tour guide to point out the unique
Peeing Boy Statue perched along the old roadway along the gorge. Installed in 1968, the statue was meant to honor all the young boys of Iya who would traditionally relieve themselves from that point. Given how high up the spot was, traditionally young boys (and some tourists) would prove their courage by standing along the edge and relieving themselves into the wind. For the record, Japan Deluxe Tours does not recommend attempting what the boy in the statue does.
Feeling courageous like you want to explore a new land? Ask your travel agent about Japan Deluxe Tours incredible and affordable line of private custom tours to explore the sights of Iya Valley with your own personal tour guide. You can also join us during our fully-guided Southern Japan Tour packages in Spring or year-round to explore the highlights of Shikoku.