The spectacular Iya Valley (祖谷渓) is a special place: its staggeringly steep gorges and thick mountain forests lure travellers to seek respite from the hectic 'mainland' lifestyle. Winding your way around narrow cliff-hanging roads as the icy water of the Iya-gawa shoots along the ancient valley floor is a blissful travel experience.
Southern Tokushima Prefecture
The highway running south from Tokushima city passes through prosperous little agricultural towns fronted by lazy surf beaches and is flanked by hidden temples and spectacular rocky bluffs. Enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and relaxed attitudes as you get to Surf City, Japan, occupying both sides of the Tokushima-Kōchi prefectural border.
Ōboke & Koboke
Ōboke (大歩危) and Koboke (小歩危) are scenic gorges on the Yoshino-gawa, which fluctuates from languid green waters to Class IV rapids. These are the upper reaches of the same Yoshino River that flows out into the Pacific Ocean near Tokushima city. The area has become a bit of a mecca for outdoors tourism.
Just north of the Tokushima–Kōchi prefectural border, Shishikui (宍喰) is becoming a hit with visitors, particularly those interested in surfing and other sea activities. Throw in an onsen, some seriously good little eateries and you've got a great place to stay for a couple of days.
The small fishing town of Hiwasa (日和佐) provides respite for road-weary pilgrims with a michi-no-eki (rest stop) on the main road in the middle of town, not far from the entrance gates to the town's main attraction, Yakuō-ji, Temple 23 of the 88. In addition to the usual food stalls, immaculate restrooms and small market, this place also has a free foot bath.
Nishi-Iya (西祖谷, West Iya) is the more accessible end of the Iya valley, and tour buses stream over Route 45 from Ōboke to fill the monstrous car and bus parking area that casts a huge shadow over the poor little vine bridge that people come to see. The good news is that most of those buses then fill up and head back over the hill.
There's not much to Ikumi Beach (生見), on the Kōchi side of the prefectural border with Tokushima. Basically, there is a lovely beach with waves that attract surfers from all over Japan, some good budget accommodation, a few eateries that won't break the bank, and a surf shop or two.
At 1955m, Tsurugi-san (剣山) is the second-highest mountain in Shikoku and one of Japan's 100 Famous Mountains. Unlike the sharp-edged peak of Shikoku's highest mountain, Ishizuchi-san to the west, which is said to represent a strict father, the summit of Tsurugi-san is gently rounded and frequently likened to a gentle mother.