Suspend Disbelief and Step Back in Time Crossing the Vine Bridges of Iya Valley
The Iya Valley in Tokushima, japan, is a hidden gem that offers a unique and adventurous experience for travelers. One of the main attractions in this remote and mountainous valley is the vine bridges, known as kazurabashi. These bridges, handwoven and reinforced with hidden steel cables, have a fascinating history and provide a thrilling opportunity to explore the rugged side of Japan. In this article, we will delve into the details of these vine bridges, their significance, and how to access them.
How to Get There:
The most accessible and popular bridge in the Iya Valley is the Iya Kazurabashi. It can be reached by bus from JR Awa Ikeda and JR Oboke stations along the JR Dosan train line between Okayama and Kochi. Awa Ikeda Station is also connected to Okayama via the hourly Nanpu limited express service. From Awa-Ikeda Station, buses stop at Iya Onsen Mae or Kazurabashi bus stops. Alternatively, from Oboke Station, you can take the Kazurabashi-iki Shikoku Kotsu Bus and get off at the “Kazurabashi” bus stop, which is a 5-minute walk from Iya Kazurabashi. The Oku-Iya Kazurabashi bridges, located in the eastern part of the valley near Mt. Tsurugi, are more remote and best visited by rental car or via private tour.
Before we dive into the history and significance of the vine bridges, let’s explore some quick facts about them. The bridges are handwoven and reinforced with hidden steel cables. They are rebuilt every three years to ensure their safety and longevity. Interestingly, the Oku-Iya Kazurabashi bridges consist of a husband and wife bridge pairing. Out of the original 13 bridges, only three remain today, making them a precious cultural heritage of the Iya Valley.
The vine bridges of Iya Valley hold immense historical and cultural significance. In the past, they served as lifelines for the people living in the remote and mountainous region. The steep gorges and rushing waters made it challenging to cross the valley. The bridges, traditionally made by weaving together wisteria vines, provided a safe passage for the locals. Moreover, these bridges acted as deterrents to outsiders, as they could easily be cut down if enemies approached. Crossing these bridges was not only a means of transportation but also a way to protect the community from potential threats.
The origins of the vine bridges have different theories and legends associated with them. One legend claims that the famous Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi built the bridges to assist the villagers in their daily lives. Another popular story suggests that the bridges were constructed by defeated Heike soldiers fleeing their Genji pursuers during one of Japan’s civil wars in the 12th century. These interwoven histories add to the allure and mystique of the vine bridges, making them more than just a structural marvel.
The Oku-Iya Vine Bridges:
While the Iya Kazurabashi is the most accessible and well-known bridge, the Oku-Iya Kazurabashi bridges offer a more remote and serene experience. Located in the eastern part of the valley near Mt. Tsurugi, these bridges can be reached by taking a short walk through a forest. The lack of development in the area gives visitors a sense of stepping back in time, immersing them in the natural beauty and tranquility of the surroundings.
The vine bridges of Iya Valley are a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the local people. These handwoven bridges, once essential for survival, now serve as a cultural and historical attraction for visitors. Crossing these bridges is not only an adrenaline-pumping experience but also an opportunity to connect with the past and appreciate the natural beauty of the Iya Valley. Whether you choose to visit the popular Iya Kazurabashi or explore the remote Oku-Iya Kazurabashi bridges, a journey to the vine bridges of Iya Valley promises an unforgettable adventure.
Address And Maps Location:
162-2 Nishiiyayamamura Zentoku, Miyoshi-shi, Tokushima-ken