I took this Golden Week as opportunity to explore parts of Tokushima I haven’t yet visited. The focus of my week was on western Tokushima and visiting as many 88 Temples of Shikoku as I could. With Nishiyama sensei (teacher) as my guide, we set off to Iya Valley, considered one of Japan’s three most hidden regions. Iya Valley is located deep along the western Tokushima Iyakei Gorge and with houses on its hillsides and a feeling of isolation, the region is dubbed the ‘Tibet of Japan’ by famed writer Alex Kerr. After driving along a narrow road where cars are required to pull to the side to allow on coming traffic to fit, we finally arrived at Kazura-bashi – a famous vine bridge, which spans the deep river gorges. What looked like an easy cross from a distance, up close the ancient bridge made from natural vine creepers appeared as if it was ready to break at any time. With some steps almost a foot apart and a rail that rocked unsteadily, it appeared some folks would need a rescue operation just to get off. Afterwards we ate a fish skewer appetizer and Iya Soba – Iya’s own popular noodles made from buckwheat locally grown. When looking for relaxation after a meal or anytime for that matter, there’s no better way then to what else… but to get naked with a bunch of men – Japanese style. That’s right, I’m talking about a trip to the onsen, translated as spa. Going to the onsen is a favorite amongst all Japanese men and women. What can be crunchy for most Westerners at first, over time the camando experience can become quite natural. There are literally thousands of onsens all across Japan and the Iya Onsen rates high for its ambiance. Located atop the cliffs at Iyakei Gorge, a ride down the steepest cable car in Japan is necessary to reach the base of the valley and Iya’s outdoor hot spring onsen. On the return trip, we stopped at a preserved home of the Heike samarai clan. It was in Iya Valley where Kyoto’s defeated Heike clan fled from the rival Genji samarai clan during the 12-century samarai civil wars. The week concluded with visits to various 88 Temples.
Note: see Tokushima Sights album for more pictures