Iya Onsen / Shin-Iya Onsen
In roughly the center of Shikoku, Iya Valley is nestled in a mountainous area near the border between the western part of Tokushima Prefecture and Kochi Prefecture. Sheer cliffs from dozens to hundreds meters high stretch for 20 km along the valley. You can see the emerald green Iya River flowing far below and may feel dizzy when you look down. A statue of a peeing boy stands at the edge of a 200-meter precipice, which is noted as the best viewing spot of the valley. In the old days, the local children and travelers stood up here and urinated to show their bravado.
There are two hot springs that are known for the use of a cable car to go to their baths in this area. In Iya Onsen, the cable car brings you 170 meters down to the bottom of the valley. Its open-air baths are situated in the riverbed and directly connected to the source of the hot spring, which is rare in Shikoku. Lukewarm water of 38 degrees C is good to enjoy a panoramic view in a leisurely manner. On the other hand, Shin-Iya Onsen’s cable car brings you up to its open-air baths that command a splendid view of the valley. A day-trip use is available at both spas.
For sightseeing, visit Iya no Kazura Bashi, or Suspension Vine Bridge. It is made of vine and designated as a National and Prefectural Significant Folk Cultural Property. Gigantic and bizarre-looking stones are seen for 5 km along the Oboke Gorge and you can enjoy a boat cruise. Koboke Gorge is 3 km downstream from Oboke. With the rapid stream, it is famous as an exciting rafting spot. Ochiai Village retains nostalgic mountain village scenery. A lot of dolls made of straw stand on the street and welcome you in Oku-Iya.
Freshwater fish, such as ayu (sweetfish), broiled with salt, Iya soba buckwheat noodles, dekomawashi, which is a dish of potato, tofu and konnyaku (devil’s tongue) roasted on a bamboo skewer with miso, and hirara-yaki, which is a dish of tofu, vegetables and freshwater fish cooked with miso on a flat stone called hirara, are local delicacies.