If you want to fill your day with an escape to a natural place filled with man-made secrets, head over to the vine-made suspension bridge over Iya Valley in the western part of Tokushima. The valley offers a scenic area which is one of the unexplored places to visit. It is known for its dramatic mountain valleys, farmhouses, and historic vine bridges located in remote areas which become an ideal destination for those seeking a peaceful way of traveling.
Back in the old days, this remote mountainous interior of Shikoku was fairly inaccessible, so they built vine bridges by weaving together living wisteria plants from either side of the rivers with planking in between. They’re now rebuilt with internal steel cables, but are still impressive! #iya #iyavalley #祖谷渓 #kazurabashi #祖谷 #かずら橋
There were originally 13 vine bridges in Iya Valley with the most popular one over the Iya River known as “Iya no Kazurabashi.” This is considered to be the most accessible too. However, there is no clear evidence as to who started these bridges. In the past, they were commonly used as the best possible way of moving goods from one place to another. There are so many theories and legends regarding their origin. One popular story says that the bridges were first raised by an influential Heian Period monk, Kobo Daishi. Another story claims that they were created by Heike refugees upon their defeat.
The bridges were created by very tough vines of wisteria which were aggressive in nature. These vines can climb almost any host. Two of these vines were grown on both ends of the Iya River. After growing to sufficient lengths, they were intertwined together. During those times, the bridges had no side rails and were so unstable that it was quite terrifying to cross the bridge. If you were not used to crossing the bridge, it would immediately start to sway and bounce. On the other hand, it is rebuilt every three years to assure the safety of travelers.
Iya no Kazurabashi stretches to 45 meters across the Iya River and crossing it is a great thing for tourists to experience. Surely you will never truly have the feeling of what it is like to cross a suspension bridge until you walk on one.
Walking on Historical Footbridges in Japan