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Uncovering the Hidden Iya Valley

HOME > Japan’s Local Treasures > Uncovering the Hidden Iya Valley


Discover a place lost in time with Japanologist Alex Kerr

Miyoshi City


Nestled within the dense mountains of Tokushima Prefecture’s Miyoshi City, the Iya Valley is probably best known for its precarious kazurabashi (‘vine bridges’), as well as for its scenic hot springs and exciting outdoor activities. 
But for East Asian researcher Alex Kerr, the most appealing aspects of Iya are its more elusive and enigmatic parts. “Until the 1930’s, Iya was almost like an independent nation, since it was so far removed from the rest of Japan,” explains Kerr, who has maintained a deep connection to this remote valley ever since first visiting in the 1970’s. Kerr first documented his journeys to Iya in his acclaimed book “Lost Japan,” and over the years he has made further efforts to introduce this beloved valley to a wider audience. 



In seeking to reveal Iya’s hidden charms, Kerr prefers taking visitors to places few ever encounter, including secluded forest-clad shrines, moss-covered tombs of fugitive samurai, and historic hillside villages. Kerr has also helped restore several thatched-roof farmhouses here, where overnight guests can experience Iya’s ancient lifestyle that is centered around traditional floor hearths. “I’m glad Iya isn’t just known to me, but that it’s now known throughout the world,” says Kerr.

A tour in Miyoshi City featuring Alex Kerr, entitled “Travels in Iya I’m Reluctant to Reveal,” is being planned for the near future. 





How to get there


From Takamatsu Airport, take the bus to JR Tatamatsu Station (45 minutes), then take an express train to JR Oboke Station (about 1 hour). The Iya Valley area is about 15 minutes by bus or taxi from JR Oboke Station.


Iya Valley, Miyoshi-shi, Tokushima-ken



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