And after those slight problems with Rachel and Josh getting to Japan and then weather and us getting to Tokushima, we woke up early and refreshed the next morning and were off!
And our first stop, after what we were thinking would be about a 3 hour drive, was our hostel. After driving on some of the most precariously small and windy and narrow and steep cliff-bordering, railless mountain roads I had ever seen (I'm serious, they all looked something like the following, except with the occasional waterfall pouring right down onto the road - I am NOT lying when I say it was SCARY!),
we made it to an even scarier, winder, steeper, so sloping downhill that you could barely see in front of you road that led us right to the hostel. Josh was driving, and he did an ABSOLUTELY amazing job. I was so stressed out just sitting in the car that I think there is no possible way I could have driven. We were sure hoping the hostel would be worth it.
And it totally was.
Yeah, that AMAZINGNESS is the view from the hostel.
We pretty much immediately set back off, as we had tons of things to see and not a lot of time!
Our first stop was the Kazura-bashi, the largest and most famous of the three remaining vine bridges in the world. They're made of wisteria branches, which are supposed to be some of the strongest in the world.
We just had to hope that sucker was solid as the rapids underneath were so hardcore that I wouldn't be surprised if they would have been considered illegal rafting in the states.
Right next to Kazura-bashi was Biwa-no-Taki, a sort of famous waterfall - although, to be honest, I really don't see what made it so different from all of the other bagazillions of waterfalls around. The guidebook says it's impressive because it's 50m high, and don't get me wrong, it was awesome, but there were far more awesome ones to be seen as well.
After hiking around the area for a bit, it was time to go off in search of Mannekin Piss. A statue of a little boy peeing off a very high cliff. They say that travelers used to stop there and pee of the cliff and so they built the statue to commemorate.
We saw many amazing things along the way.
After sort of getting lost, we finally made it to the statue.
While the statue itself was inconsequential, the view was, not shockingly, AMAZING!!!!
After driving around and hiking and exploring a little bit more, we followed this road
and returned to the hostel.
Where the night view was possibly even more amazing, if possible, than they day view.
The next day we were up early and ready for more Iya Valley exploring! First stop was the Samurai house!
At the top of a mountain was a thatched roof house in which Samurai used to live. Everything was still how it used to be, and it was super cool!
It was full of all sort of tools and utensils that samurai used to use.
And the view from the house was absolutely AMAZING!
The woman working there told us all about how they used to live hidden at the top of high mountains in the trees so that enemies wouldn't be able to easily attack. It was all in Japanese, though, so I only halfway understood.
Next to the Samurai house was a super huge, super old tree.
It was really cool because, because it was a cedar tree, the branches started super low down. It would have been so easy (and fun) to climb, but it was blocked off. Perhaps because it's over 800 years old.
After driving through some beautiful waterfalls,
we made our way to Oku Iya Kazura-bashi, twin husband and wife vine bridges. The other vine bridge had been fairly touristy when we crossed, so we were glad to get to see these, which, while smaller, were far less peopled and thus far more pleasant.
It's sort of crazy to think that, back in the day, people were actually for real crossing the river using these bridges, because there was no other way. And they had no way of knowing how sturdy they actually were. Next to the bridges was another way of crossing the river - this small little house thing. You had to pull on the string to move yourself across. It was small and shaky and super fun!
Next stop (well, aside from quite a few little small stops along the way) was Mt. Tsurugi, which we were going to try to hike. On our way there, we passed through a village that seemed to be 100% peopled by these life-sized stuffed human things. We had actually been seeing them everywhere, but this village had at least 20 of them out and about, and it still shocked us. The entire day, we definitely saw more of these stuffed people than we did real people.
It was just weird.
We also saw this really cute/cool mountain village.
People don't really live on mountains here in Japan, so it was neat. Especially since, if I recall correctly, they are totally self-sufficient and technology free.
We finally made it to Mount Tsurugi, but by the time we got there, it was starting to rain, and we weren't sure it was such a good idea to hike in the rain.
We explored the cool shrine thing at the bottom.
We started hiking a little bit but decided to turn back when it really seemed like rain. And when we heard something that sounded suspiciously like a bear.
It was a good thing we turned back, too, as it turned out we had a long, windy, rainy drive back to Tokushima.
The Iya Valley was absolutely AMAZING, and despite our limited time there, we really were able to see pretty much everything we wanted to see! Yay! I think it is now number 1 on the list of most beautiful places I have ever seen. Tied with Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. With Lake Bled in Slovenia in a close second.
Anyhow, if Picasa keeps cooperating, I'll be posting lots more pictures soon, and I'll be sure to post a link to that. Along with links to Josh and Rachel's photo albums, if they make them.
Sorry this is so long! YAY IYA VALLEY!!!! Be sure to check back soon, as the next morning, we made our way up to Kyoto!