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Where can I go off the beaten track in Japan? – Part 2

Where can I go off the beaten track in Japan?

It’s Emi again– a Japan expert and former “tenjoin” (tour guide/tour leader) in Japan for Japanese domestic travellers.

If you’ve been to Japan already and seen the neon lights of the big cities, why not take an adventure to find some hidden gems? It’s time to go off the beaten track in Japan!

Japan has something here for everyone.

Once again, some places can be quite challenging to get to. Public transportation may either not exist, or may not be frequent enough to make your visit time efficient. So, make sure you prepare and organise in advance when you plan off the beaten track in Japan!

Here is the second of my three favourite places to get “off the beaten track in Japan” and it’s sure to impress!

Iya Valley in Tokushima (Shikoku region)

Iya Valley is one of the best hidden scenic places of Japan. The area is home to sublime natural beauty and traces of the legendary Samurai clan, the Heike. It’s located in the remote, largely unpopulated mountain ranges of Mt Tsurugi-san in Miyoshi, Tokushima – almost in the centre of Shikoku Island. The ‘V’ formation of the valley snakes along the Iya River for 10km with the height of the cliffs varying between 10 and 100 metres.

Local experiences:

The main attraction of the Iya Valley, other than the gorgeous nature, is the Kazurabashi!

Kazurabashi are suspension bridges originally made of shirakuchi-kazura (a type of vine). There were originally 13 of these bridges in the region. Today only 3 remain. The largest is the Iya Kazurabashi, which spans 45 metres across the river, is 2 metres in width and suspended at a height of 14 metres above the river.

The bridge is rebuilt and renovated every three years – now made from steel cables hidden within the vines. Every single movement on the bridge makes it swing and shake…..it is a real horror for me!! This bridge will literally test your courage. It’s open from sunrise to sunset and is illuminated every night.

Off the beaten track in Japan Iya Valley
Off the beaten track in Japan Iya Valley
Off the beaten track in Japan Iya Valley

After testing your courage, take a short 50 metre walk to cool off at the riverside beside Biwa Waterfall.

Off the beaten track in Japan Iya Valley

The Oboke Gorge Cruise will take you to witness the beauty of nature. The gorge was formed by the erosion of the crystalline rock by the flowing river. The rocks look like huge marble sculptures!

Off the beaten track in Japan Iya Valley
Off the beaten track in Japan Iya Valley
Off the beaten track in Japan Iya Valley

Hinoji Valley and the Peeing Boy – famous sights you don’t want to miss while exploring the Iya Valley.

From the observation deck in the Hinoji Valley, you’ll see the emerald green coloured Iya River, with water clear enough to see the bottom. The river that flows through this valley is shaped like “ひ”, the Japanese hiragana character.

Not far from the valley, driving through the area, the peeing boy statue suddenly appears! The peeing boy is built just on the edge of a 200 metre high cliff! The statue is based on an anecdote that the local kids and travellers had a trial of courage here.

Off the beaten track in Japan Iya Valley
Off the beaten track in Japan Iya Valley

You could explore more in the Iya Valley!! By driving a little more (probably it’s not ‘a little’… it’s seriously in the middle of the mountain and the roads are very narrow!), you can reach the Oku-Iya area. Here you can visit Ochiai-Shuraku, Village of Scarecrows, Oku-Iya Niju Kazurabashi (double bridge) which is known as Meoto-bashi, the husband (Otoko-bashi) and wife (Onna-bashi) bridges. Suspended just a few meters from Onna-bashi is Yaen (Wild Monkey Bridge). Yaen is translated to “bridge”, but it’s not actually a bridge! It’s a wooden cart suspended on ropes over the river. This hand-pulled ropeway used to be an essential means of transporting goods and people across the Iya River.

Off the beaten track in Japan Iya Valley
Off the beaten track in Japan Iya Valley
Off the beaten track in Japan Iya Valley
Off the beaten track in Japan Iya Valley
Off the beaten track in Japan Iya Valley

Tip! Exploring the Iya Valley is ideal in a car, however the seemingly endless mountain roads, although sealed, are narrow, with only single lanes for two-way traffic in some spots. If you are not confident to drive in these locations, then taking a private taxi tour will be a good idea. Contact us to organise your tour!

See a sample itinerary which includes an Iya Valley visit – our “Idyllic Japan – Chugoku, Shikoku