Back in the old days, people in the Iya Valley would cross the many rivers and gorges using bridges made of vines! Today, there are only three left, one called Iya Kazurabashi and the other two Oku-Iya Kazurabashi. They are rebuilt every three years and have cables hidden in the vines for safety. Which would I recommend if you could only go to one site or the other? Full details ahead!
This bridge is definitely the more popular of the two. It has a giant parking lot, bathrooms, a large building selling local foods and souvenirs, and even a small restaurant! The bridge is a short walk away from the souvenir building.
Once you get closer, pay the admission fee and you can walk across the bridge! Traffic across is one way, so make sure you go to the right side.
The bridge is actually a bit scarier than it looks. The space between the planks is a bit wide, so I spent most of my way across checking to make sure my feet weren’t going to slip through. It also sways a bit, but the view from the middle is beautiful!
If you turn left after the bridge, there’s a waterfall and a path that leads down to the riverside. Check it out!
Tip: Get there EARLY. We got there around 9 and had no problem parking. When we left, though, there was a long line of cars waiting for space to open up. That could have only been because of Golden Week, but better to be safe than sorry, right?
There are two vine bridges at this site! The parking lot is much smaller (proving it’s not as popular), but there are still bathrooms. Admission is paid at the beginning and gives you access to both bridges and a surprise!
The first bridge you will come to is the ‘Man Bridge.’ I guess technically this is for men only, but women crossed it as well. A bit further down the tree-lined path is the ‘Woman Bridge.’ One thing to note is that for these bridges, traffic moves in both directions. The bridges are wide enough to accommodate two people walking side by side, but it can feel a bit freaky once they start swaying a bit. Go slow!
Now for the surprise! If you continue past the Woman Bridge, you’ll see a small cart attached to ropes spanning the river. This was also used as a method of transport, and you can try it yourself! You walk up onto the platform, get into the little cart and close the door, then pull the rope to pull yourself to the other side. It was lots of fun!
A word of caution: it is a little bit difficult to get into the cart because it will immediately start sliding back to the other side. It is helpful to have either someone on the same side as you holding the cart in place, or someone on the opposite side holding the rope so the cart doesn’t start moving as you climb in.
The lack of tourists and the chance to get more out of your money means that the Oku-Iya Bridges are the ones I’d recommend! Access to the Iya Valley is a bit difficult if you don’t have a car and the roads are very VERY small in places, but I think it’s completely worth it to experience these cool pieces of Japanese history.
Would you walk on a bridge made of vines over a river far below you? Let me know in the comments!
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