Last weekend, Sona, Roland and yours truly decided to go do some exploring of that beautiful country we all live in. After some deliberations, we set our sights on Tokushima-ken in Shikoku, more specifically: Iya valley.
In addition to being a reasonably short and affordable bus ride away (2h30 from Kyoto to Tokushima city, another 2h to Iya proper), the region has a reputation as one of the last somewhat-preserved rural areas of Japan: lush nature aplenty, stunning mountain scenery and slightly less of the concrete horrors that litter every last corner of the Japanese countryside. The latter in particular was a big selling point, albeit taken with the healthy skepticism of someone who has seen his share of “scenic” Japanese countryside towns and “world-famous Unesco sites” consisting of a couple painfully preserved traditional houses surrounded by entire towns of nondescript gray buildings in all their aging 70s glory, along beaches littered with endless lines of tetrapods…
As it turns out, Iya valley might indeed offer some of the last shreds of unblemished rural landscape found in Japan (outside of 2-day hikes to remote mountainous parts of Gunma-ken or the like). In addition to largely unscathed landscapes, the constant mist and low-hanging clouds locked in by mountains on all sides contributed to give the whole area a distinct Lost Valley feel.
Don’t get me wrong: local government is clearly hard at work finding new and inventive ways to lay down concrete anywhere they can and utilitarian, cheap & ugly is the only zoning code local construction abides by. But on the scale of concrete addiction: if your average Japanese town is the worn-out crack whore who will blow you behind the city hall for a new four-lane expressway construction project, Iya would be the fresh-faced socialite who fashionably dabbles in cocaine but still has most of her youthful looks still on1.
In short: it was awesome and a much needed break from suburban city life.
It has been a while since I posted any real travel notes (instead of just plopping a bunch of pictures), so I thought I could make an effort this time. Behold:
The Wondrous Adventures of Sona, Roland & Dave in Beautiful Iya Valley!
It all started on Friday night, when our bus dropped us at Tokushima station.
to be continued…
- In that overwrought simile, Tokyo is probably Keith Richards: pumped up full of chemicals, and oddly endearing for the sheer excess of it all. [↩]