The wisteria vine bridges (kazura-bashi) of the Iya Valley are glorious remnants of a remote and timeless Japan. Crossing the bridges has for centuries been notoriously difficult, which suited the bandits and humbled warriors who took refuge in the secluded gorges. The bridges are feats of ancient engineering, undertaken roughly a thousand years ago, and were formed by tying together the wild vines that hung on either side of the narrow valley. Only in recent years have the bridges been reinforced with side rails, planks and wire.
Only three kazura-bashi survive, one heavily touristed bridge at Nishi Iya, which is dwarfed by its own car park, and another pair of 'husband and wife' bridges at Higashi Iya, which is a further 30km east – the secluded, deep gorge setting is worth the extra effort.