ODYSSEY JAPAN

DESTINATION

DESTINATION

IYA VALLEY

Experience the slow life in
rustic homes on the mountainside.

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75 MINUTES

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Tokyo

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Osaka

Tokushima

ABOUT

  • aboutabout
  • AT THE CROSSROADS OF SHIKOKU

    Centuries ago, the Oboke-Iya district was a major crossroad of the island’s four domains (‘shi’ = four, ‘koku’ = domain). Located in the mountainous heart of Shikoku, anyone traveling from one domain to another would have to pass through this area. Today, roads have been built along the river but in olden times, human-paved pathways traveled high over the peaks of the mountains, and with good reason. The valleys were rocky and prone to flooding, with dangerous wild animals lurking. Little sunlight makes it through the dense forest, making it impossible for crops to grow, and so communities settled in the mountains, where all the necessities for life could be obtained.
    Since there’s little flat space on the steep mountainside, platforms had to be created using stones as the foundations in order to build houses and paths. These walls were made without mortar or cement, using only carefully placed stones. These walls have lasted for centuries.

    ANCIENT SUSTAINABLE FARMING METHODS

    With no flat spaces to grow crops, farmers developed ways of coping with the challenges of cultivation on slopes, sewing along the curvature of the hillside to prevent erosion and trap water streaming down. They collect wild grass and store it in stooks. This nutrient-rich organic material is then used to mulch food crops in a completely natural and sustainable way. Not surprisingly, food produced this way tastes wonderful too.
    Because rice can’t be grown on slopes, soba became a staple in these regions. It’s an attractive plant with beautiful white flowers. At Sarukai you can wander among soba fields, and enjoy the wildflowers that grow around the farm.

    ENJOY THE SLOW LIFE IN A COMFORTABLE KOMINKA

    The hamlet of Ochiai is one of the representative mountain communities that have maintained the centuries-old way of life. Today, you can stay in one of eight dwellings built more than a hundred years ago, refurbished with every modern comfort. The windows are doubled glazed and the accommodation is equipped with underfloor heating for the winter as well as air conditioning for the summer, and the futons are thick and fluffy. Guests can choose between a luxurious shower and a bath with an amazing view.
    These houses, collectively known as Togenkyo-Iya, were restored by Alex Kerr, whose other vacation rental kominka project, Chiiori, is known worldwide. Besides these old houses for private rental, you can stay in the homes of farming families across the region and take part in the slow life.

    These houses, collectively known as Togenkyo-Iya, were restored by Alex Kerr, whose other vacation rental kominka project, Chiiori, received global recognition. Besides these traditional houses reserved for private rental, you can stay in the homes of farming families across the region and take part in the slow life.
    For dinner, indulge in meals prepared by locals using vegetables taken from the hills around you, and wild meat such as boar and venison. People from countries where potatoes are a staple ingredient may be surprised at how deliciously different the potatoes here can be. Lunch can be enjoyed at an old thatched samurai residence or at a pleasant little roadside soba restaurant.

SEASONS

  • SPRING

  • SUMMER

  • AUTUMN

  • WINTER

THINGS TO DO

  • THE OBOKE GORGE

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    THE OBOKE GORGE

    The Oboke Gorge is formed of metamorphic sandstone, where the surface of light blue-grey sandy schist is wearing away to reveal bright green rock underneath. The thick layers of this hard schist were bent into wave shapes; erosion that started from mild cracks in the rocks became the Oboke Gorge. You can see these rocks, a designated National Natural Monument, from the comfort of a sightseeing boat.

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  • CHIIORI THATCHED ROOF TRADITIONAL HOUSE

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    CHIIORI THATCHED ROOF TRADITIONAL HOUSE

    This house was built 300 years ago. Oku-Iya is said to be the Tibet of Japan, with its high elevation and narrow valleys. Alex Kerr purchased and restored the house, renaming it ‘Chiiori’, which translates to ‘the house of the flute,’ an instrument he loves to play.

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  • OCHIAI VILLAGE

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    OCHIAI VILLAGE

    Ochiai Village is a settlement on the slope of a mountain roughly in the middle of Higashi-Iya where the Iya and Ochiai rivers meet. The origins of the village are unknown, but there are stories about the defeated Heike and pioneering activity in the Iya Valley. The slopes of the settlement are very steep, with a height difference of about 390 meters.

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  • VILLAGE OF DOLLS

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    VILLAGE OF DOLLS

    This is one of the few regions in Japan where the old scenery still remains. This is an area where visitors and residents experience true wellbeing.

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  • TOUGENKYO-IYA

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    TOUGENKYO-IYA

    There are currently eight thatched-roof cottages restored as vacation rentals in Ochiai Village in the Higashi-Iya area of Tokushima Prefecture, known as one of Japan’s three unexplored regions.Why not rent a cottage for your stay? Although the buildings are old, they’re equipped with modern bathrooms, air conditioning, kitchens, linen and floor heating for a comfortable time.

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  • ON-SEN

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    ON-SEN

    Whatever the season, relaxing in a hot spring bath is a moment of pure luxury.

    「Wanoyado Hotel Iyaonsen」

    「Iyakei Onsen Hikyonoyu」

    「Hotel Kazurabashi」

    「Hotel Obokekyo Mannaka」

    「Sunriver Oboke」

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OTHER DESTINATIONS

  • IYA VALLEY TOKUSHIMA

  • SHONAI YAMAGATA

  • TOTTORI

  • SAGA

  • MIYAZAKI

  • YAMAGUCHI