Often considered one of the last vestiges of 'old Japan', the Iya valley is famous for its natural beauty, inaccessibility and its poignant role as a place of refuge for the remnants of the Taira clan after their defeat to the Minamoto clan in Japan's pivotal Genpei war (1180-1185). The result of this war ushered in the beginning of the feudal state system in Japan, with real power residing in Kamakura and Kyoto remaining the seat of national ceremony and ritual. Interestingly enough, it was the betrayal of the Taira by Taguchi, a famous Shikoku warrior, who defected to the Morimoto clan during the Dan-no-Ura naval battle, forever altering the course of Japanese history.
Located in Tokushima prefecture this valley is known for its thatched roof farmhouses, traditional vine bridges, steep mountain gorges and crystal clear rivers. Discover Shikoku offers you the ability to stay in beautifully remodeled farmhouses where local village women come to you to prepare amazing dinners of locally sourced meat fish and vegetables. The stunning views, fabulous food, and rich traditions will transport you to another place in time.
In addition to the Double Vine Bridges, one of the main attractions of 'Oku Iya'(deep Iya) is Kakashi-no-Sato, commonly referred to as the 'Valley of the Dolls'. Ironic as this one woman's effort was never intended to attract tourists. Meant solely to address the loneliness felt by this widow as she bore witness to the rapid depopulation of the region, Ayano-san has taken to making life size dolls based on the memories of her former neighbors. Engaged in a range of activities across the village these 200 or so dolls can be found farming in fields, cutting fire wood, attending classes in the school house and even waiting patiently at the bus stop. Kitsch, though it may sound, Kakashi-no-Sato is a profoundly personal experience and intriguing testament to the human spirit.
Dotted with numerous ancient shines, many established by the Taira after their retreat to the Iya valley, this land is awash in history and culture. Take a class in traditional soba noodle making techniques followed by a delicious lunch or let us schedule you some one on one time with a local shokunin (traditional crafts artisan).
On the eastern edge of the valley, at the headwaters of the Iya river lies Shikoku's fabled Mt. Tsurugi. The second tallest mountain on the island has long been shrouded in mystery and myth. From the 10 meter long snake rumored to stalk its twin 6500 ft peaks to the surprisingly compelling legend proclaiming the arc of the covenant to be buried within this mountain. You can read more about that HERE. Legends aside, Mt. Tsurugi is an incredibly picturesque climb. The twin peaks, connected by a saddleback ridge allow an unobstructed view from the Seto Inland Sea all the way to the Pacific ocean. In combination with the cable lift from the main parking lot its a challenging but pleasant 3 hour hike.