Into the Shikoku Mountains

The Iya Valley

I’m beginning to see what appeals about this island – both the cities and the rural landscapes. It’s the opposing elements of each. Here we move from trails that are 1 metre above sea level to trails 1500 – 2000 metre above in Tokushima prefecture . The countryside almost alpine , ice green rivers , hotels that look like 1950’s Val d’Isere . Minus any Chairs – oh ….. or Beds 😆

One single road – route 32 takes us to Hotel Kazurabashi in the mountain hamlet of Iya – now famed for walking and Spa breaks. They make a fuss of their vine suspension bridges too – try one if you dare . The one nearest our hotel was closed following an infestation of common sense . 👀

This hamlet was unknown to the outside world ( poster below ) until tbe late 1800’s . The inhabitants valued their isolation as the main islands of Japan suffered frequent wars , foreign intervention, and strife as the Emperor overruled the Shogunate.

This place is – to be honest – a bit of a treat. We heard it has the most amazing outdoor thermal “Onsen” – the Japanese traditional bath house . Ideal for aching legs !!

I have to swot up on multi stage Onsen Etiquette- it’s so easy to cause offence otherwise.

I wasn’t prepared for how unusual this Onsen was !! 🤣 It had its own mini mountain railway running from the 2nd floor of the hotel . A cross between a cable car and a mobile potting shed.

Well worth the ride as this was a great experience. Public bathing – Wearing nice hotel supplied Yukatas ( demonstrated here 😆 – exotic ) –

meant unsurprisingly- cameras not allowed – BUT – as I was there late that night and again early 6.30am the following morning – I had the place to myself and snapped these views . A remarkable way to start your day in the mountains – a thermal spring with these views !!

That evenings food followed the usual rule :- 20 pots of mysterious FPW – Fish , Pickle , Whatever. Eaten at 12 inch high tables – Edible Russian Roulette 😬.

The staff were lovely. They loved what we were doing on our adventure and the fact we loved what they did for us – and told them so. Makes the world go round .

A great overnight stay ✅

Office Closed – 20 Minutes

We should have checked , it was getting late the following day. We had achieved good altitude- many floors on my Fitbit – a lot of rise and fall over a short distance – a sure sign of steep paths and forest steps .

“It ain’t the steps it’s the floors ! 😬”

So we added an extra Temple visit assuming that the path down was the same as every other.

It had now been raining for 6 hours As we came out of the forest hillside into the temple courtyard wearing green ponchos and Sugegasa- conical straw hats – more damp Vietgong than Pilgrim 😬.

Bravo 👏 Sister Kate ! – you’re made of tough stuff – spirits high throughout 👏

The rain pauses , welcome evening sun appears , some quick pics and …………. you remember that path we assumed we were taking out of here – easy eh ?

But noooo ……

were met with a very concerned official – “No time for visit we close in 20 minutes ” . We looked confused as 20 mins is normally fine , we’d see the temple then head down the exit path to the next meeting point …… He smiled and said – “No path – come with me ”

Surprise ! – The only Temple – anywhere – where the onward path is …….. a full size cable car ! – ( That closes at 5.20 pm !! Who knew )

A fully working – double ridge ( it crosses 2 high mountain valleys ) – 1960’s Swiss cable car 🚠 . The full “Where Eagles Dare” . Here in the dense Japanese Pacific forest . Bizarre .

But we’re getting used to “Bizarre”

Talk tomorrow XXX

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