A bucolic counterpoint to the fast-paced, futuristic side of Japan, Iya Valley offers remote mountainous landscapes with rustic townships, and bridges made from vines. With deep ravines, perilous gorges and lush, forested slopes, this terrain is as beautiful as it is seemingly impenetrable, with a reputation throughout the ages for harboring bandits and disgraced samurai on the run. Today, the area is popular for its hiking and the opportunity it gives visitors to experience "slow life."
The whole point of a trip to Iya Valley is to get away from it all, so the most "touristy" activities here are simply hiking, crossing the valley's famed old vine bridges and dropping into a handful of preserved mountain farmhouses. Plenty of time must be devoted to just enjoying the scenery - of Iya Valley's spectacular gorges and its dense forests - and appreciating one of Japan's least populated, least developed and slowest-moving destinations.
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Visit one of Iya Valley’s most important historical sites with a trip to Buke Yashiki Samurai Residence. This well-preserved thatch-roofed house gives visitors a glimpse of the life a respected samurai family in the 18th century. It also offers fantastic mountain and valley views.
Step back in time with a nostalgic look at this 300-year-old thatch-roofed farmhouse, the restoration project of author Alex Kerr. It was Kerr who revived interest in Iya Valley with his book Lost Japan, and now the author leases Chiiori (House of the Flute) for tourism purposes. It is one of the last traditional houses where fire is lit in a floor hearth.
Gain insight into the daily life of the Heike Clan – the original inhabitants of Iya Valley. Maps, artifacts, tools, photos and scroll paintings give an idea of the cultural traditions of the area as well as its inhabitants’ day-to-day lives.
Ascend to a height of nearly 660 feet to see a Brussels icon in Japan – the Manneken Pis statue. Local children of Iya Valley are said to prove their bravery by relieving themselves over dizzying vertical drops; fortunately this youngster is cemented safely to his spot.
Stroll through an Edo-period village set on the side of a mountain. This scenic township features traditional thatched-roof farmhouses, winding paths and terraced fields with which farmers would cultivate the steep mountain slopes.
Cross the river the traditional way – via vine bridge. There were once 13 such bridges in Iya Valley but today only three remain. Iya Kazurabashi, the largest of the three, spans 150 feet over Iya River. Second and third are the Oku-Iya Kazurabashi bridges, a “husband and wife” pair, with the smaller “wife” bridge featuring a wooden cable car.
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