“The Village in The Sky” lies waaaaaay back in the deepest depths of Iya – one of the three most secluded places in Japan. Also known as “Scarecrow Village”, locals live in happiness with homemade puppets! You may wonder what on earth that’s all about; I’ll explain later!
A Sightseeing Drive
As you might expect of a secluded “village in the sky”, the drive to scarecrow village takes quite some time. Even from Tokushima Awa Odori Airport, it’s a 3 hour drive. However, there are a myriad of places to visit and sights to see along the way! The “peeing boy” for instance – a famous statue that overlooks a 200m deep valley with the spectacular view you can see in the photo below.
One of the more famous scenic spots of Iya, this is Hinoji Valley. It’s name comes from the Japanese character ひ (read: hi), the shape of which can clearly be seen from above.
If you get hungry en route, why not stop for a while and try the famous local dish, Iya soba. I recommend eating bokeage soba (above) at a restaurant called Iya Bijin. The soba is served with a large piece of bokeage (fried tofu) on top. Please give it a try; it’s really good!
The Famous Kazurabashi Bridge
Just around the corner from Iya Bijin, you can find a popular sight in Iya. Situated in the area’s breathtaking natural environment, Kazurabashi Bridge spans the Iya River. Swaying beneath your feet, crossing the bridge is quite the exhilarating experience!
Extreme Countryside Experience
The village of Ochiai is located on a mountainside a little to the east of Kazurabashi Bridge. Time appears to have stopped here; its traditional homes were built in the Edo period (1603~1867). In recent years, some of its thatched-roofed houses have been converted into comfortable accommodation for visitors. If you plan on spending a night or two somewhere in the Iya area and want a truly countryside experience, I highly recommend doing so here!
The Record-Breaking Monorail In The Woods
Those are a few of the sights every traveler should experience. Here are a few more!
Over the course of 4.6km, the Okuiya Sightseeing Monorail snakes up the side of the mountain. With a maximum inclination of 40°, a height difference of 560m, and a maximum altitude of 1380m, the monorail holds three world records! The views from the mini-train are nothing short of amazing, and as the monorail is situated right next to an onsen (hot spring), it’s perfect for a day trip as well.
The Scarecrow Village In The Sky
Driving through Iya introduces many enjoyable sights and places to visit before finally arriving at the destination of the trip (10 minutes from the Okuiya Sightseeing Monorail).
Drive along the road, and suddenly you’ll come across a group of puppets seemingly waiting by the side of the road.
Continue on a little further, and more puppets appear at a bus stop.
The puppets, some dressed as farmers, appear to be resting. They give the impression that they’re living here for real. As it says in the preface, these are the scarecrows the locals have made, and this is the titular “scarecrow village”.
And so we come to the highlight of the trip.
The scarecrows are not only situated outside, they are also found inside houses. The village’s real humans nonchalantly invite travelers into their homes to see the puppets. Getting to know the warmth of a people on the verge of being forgotten – I think this might be the real reason to visit the scarecrow village.
Village in The Sky – Scarecrow Village
Address: 191 Higashiiyasugeoi, Miyoshi, Tokushima Prefecture
【Iya Sightseeing by Car】
Address: Tanouchikami Nishiiyayamamura Tanouchi, Miyoshi, Tokushima Prefecture
Address: 9-3 Nishiiyayamamura Zentoku, Miyoshi, Tokushima Prefecture
Address: 162-2 Nishiiyayamamura Zentoku, Miyoshi, Tokushima Prefecture
Address: 142 Ochiai Higashiiya, Miyoshi, Tokushima Prefecture (main offices)
●Okuiya Sightseeing Monorail
Address: 28 Higashiiyasugeoi, Miyoshi, Tokushima Prefecture (connected to Iyashino Onsenkyo)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Daisuke Chiba
■The Sanin, Setouchi & Shikoku Road Map
Our sightseeing information roadmap of the Sanin, Setouchi, and Shikoku regions is now complete. The map provides easily accessible sightseeing info like never before, and with this, your road-trip is sure to be even more enjoyable. The map contains info on rent-a-car services, tourist information centers, roadside service areas, and is completely free-of-charge, so please have a look!
■Times Car Rental Tourist Information Campaign
The car rental company Times Mobility Networks Co., Ltd. is now offering a voice translation app and tourist information services for foreign travelers via tablets at several Times Car Rental stores throughout the Setouchi region. Renting a car at one of these stores means you can get more sightseeing info about specific areas, and therefore enjoy your trip even more!
Osaka: Kansai Airport
Hyogo: Sannomiya Station, Shinkobe Station, Himeji Station
Okayama: Okayama Airport, Okayama Station, Kurashiki Station
Hiroshima: Hiroshima Airport, Hiroshima Station South Exit (BIGFRONT Hiroshima), Hiroshima Otemachi
Yamaguchi: Iwakunikintaikyo Airport, Iwakuni Station, Ube Airport
Tokushima: Tokushima Airport, Tokushima Chuo
Kagawa: Takamatsu Station, Takamatsu Airport
Ehime: Matsuyama Station, Matsuyama Airport, Matsuyama Sanbancho
Fukuoka: Fukuoka Airport International Terminal
Nov. 20, 2017 – Feb. 19, 2018
※ Hiroshima stores only: Oct. 20, 2017 – Jan. 19, 2018.
Daisuke Chiba / Photo-writer I was born in 1985 in Miyoshi City, Tokushima Prefecture, and now live in Tokushima City. After graduating university, I worked at a publishing company as an editor for various mooks, and in April 2014 I went freelance. I work as a photographer, copy-writer and editor, but also do product development and other stuff as well. If anyone needs me, I can do anything! Except, in spite of my being from Tokushima, dancing - I’m really bad at dancing Awa Odori!
> A guided tour, including teatime, where you can see the former “Koshien Hotel” – “Frank Lloyd Wright type” architecture by Arata Endo. / Koshien Hall at Mukogawa Women’s University (Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo)
> Experience the ancient way of salt making on Kamikamagari-jima Island on the Tobishima Kaido in Aki-nada! / Kamagari Ancient Salt Making Remains Restoration Pavilion & “Amabito-no-Moshio” (Kure-shi, Hiroshima)
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