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Iya Valley

Get away from it all in this sparsely populated valley

The Iya Valley is in Tokushima, on the island of Shikoku. This “lost valley” is covered in ancient forests and dotted with thatched-roof farmhouses, vine bridges crossing the clear, fast river, and mist-covered mountains. It was so remote it was used as a refuge from the Genpei War (1180–1185) in the feudal era. This stunning region is known for its natural beauty — particularly in fall when its changing leaves are remarkable.
A series of vine bridges cross the Iya River, allowing access into the less populated eastern part of the valley (and providing an excellent backdrop for vacation photos). The western part of the valley has more hotels and resorts, but it’s well worth the hike to explore the eastern section, camping or staying in local guest houses. One of the strangest art exhibitions lies hidden in the eastern part; Kakashi-no-Sato, or “Valley of the Dolls,” was created by Ayano Tsukimi, who was lamenting the depopulation of her village. Over 400 of her creations are spread across the site of her village, chopping wood, gardening, waiting for the bus, and silently waiting for people to return. Hiking, star-gazing, natural hot springs, and local artisans draw the intrepid traveler to see a landscape that has changed little in thousands of years.
Miyoshi-shi, Tokushima

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