The Iya Valley (cJk, Iyakei) is a secluded, mountainous valley along the Iya River in western Tokushima Prefecture. Its steep forested slopes are connected to the outside world by a winding, sometimes unbelievably narrow mountain road that navigates the valley. While the deeper parts of the Iya Valley may be difficult to access, this remoteness is what draws visitors to the area to experience a traditional, rural culture that is difficult to find in modern Japan.

Historically the Iya Valley has been a difficult place to enter, and has long served as a refuge for members of the defeated Taira Clan (also known as Heike) who escaped to the region toward the end of the 12th century after losing the Gempei War (1180-1185). Their descendants can still be found around the tiny mountain villages that dot the region.

The Iya Valley was eventually "rediscovered" and promoted by Alex Kerr, author of "Lost Japan", who fell in love with the area after a visit. He bought and restored an ancient farmhouse, Chiiori, which he now operates as a non-profit project to introduce people to traditional Japanese life. Chiiori can be visited on a daytrip or overnight. Kerr is currently working on a project to open several more restored traditional homes around the Iya Valley to tourists.

The Iya Valley is commonly divided into two areas. Nishi Iya (West Iya) around the entrance to the valley is slightly more developed and more accessible with relatively frequent buses to some of the major attractions. Oku Iya (Inner Iya, also called Higashi Iya or East Iya) lies further back into the valley and is difficult to reach without a rental car or other means of private transportation. The following attractions are listed relative to their location within the valley.

Nishi Iya

Manikin Peeing Boy Statue

Iya Onsen Hotel

Daytime Hours: 7:00 to 18:00 (entry until 17:00)
Daytime Admission: 1700 yen (including outdoor bath, indoor bath, and cablecar)
Overnight Stay: from 17,000 yen per person including 2 meals

Shin-Iya Onsen Hotel Kazurabashi

Daytime Hours: 10:30 to 16:00
Daytime Admission: 1200 yen
Overnight Stay: from 17,000 yen per person including 2 meals

Iya Kazurabashi Bridge

Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Closed: No closing days
Admission: 550 yen

Oku Iya

Higashi Iya History and Folk Museum

Hours: 10:00 to 16:00
Closed: Wednesdays, weekends and holidays (Dec to Feb), New Year holidays
Admission: 410 yen

Samurai House

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Closed: December to March
Admission: 310 yen

Oku-Iya Kazurabashi Bridges

Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Closed: December to March
Admission: 550 yen

Mount Tsurugi

Getting there and around

Nishi Iya is accessible by buses from Awa Ikeda Station (one bus every 2-3 hours) and Oboke Station (one bus every 1-2 hours). Some buses operate as far as Kubo in Oku Iya, where travelers can transfer to another bus further into the valley. The Oku-Iya Kazurabashi Bridges and Mount Tsurugi are served only on weekends and during peak seasons from April to November.

A rental car is recommended, especially for visiting the less traveled Oku Iya area. Note that the roads are very narrow and have frequent blind curves, which make driving both hazardous and slow. Rental outlets are available around Oboke and Awa Ikeda Stations.

How to get to and around the Iya Valley

Hotels around Iya Valley

    • Hotel Iya Onsen
      A secluded onsen ryokan with stunning view of Iya Valley. Open-air bath 170m down by cable car is a must-try. Free shuttle to/from JR Oboke Sta. Wi-Fi available.
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