Iya Fureai Park -Part 1 | Connecting with the Iya Valley’s Natural Bounty
Located in the lower half of Miyoshi City’s Iya Valley in central Nishi-Iya, the Iya Fureai Park has a variety of activities available for anyone looking to experience the verdant nature of the area, including woodworking, camping, a hillside monorail, and the Forest Adventure rope and zip-line course.
A nature park in western Tokushima’s remote mountains
Surrounded by deep mountains and considered one of Japan’s Three Hidden Regions, Miyoshi City’s Iya Valley is a fantastic place for anyone interested in interacting with nature. And while the valley’s famed “Kazurabashi” vine bridges, abundant hiking trails, and historic hillside villages tend to get the most attention, the activities on offer at Iya Fureai Park provide a unique way to experience this lush landscape.
Most people enter the Iya Valley via Rt 45 as it comes in from the JR Oboke Station area. From Oboke, the road first goes up the mountainside, through the 1km long Iya Tunnel, and then descends down into the valley. As you reach the bottom near the Iya River, it is hard not to spot the arched footbridge of Iya Fureai Park.
Central Iya location with easy access
Ample parking is available behind the main building and the park’s central location just across the river from the sleepy “downtown” section of Nishi-Iya (“West Iya”) makes it an easy place to take a break.
And just up the hill a few minute walk or drive away is the Nishi-Iya Michi-no-Eki (Roadside Station) and the hot-springs of Hotel Hikyonoyu.
If coming by bus from Oboke, the closest stops would be Hotel Hikyonoyu Shita Bus Stop (at the Michi-no-Eki), or just across the river bridge at Iya Ohashi Bus Stop.
A base for Iya activities
Inside the main building of Iya Fureai Park one quickly realizes that there is a lot going on here, with a range of activities possible for both children and adults.
The park facility has been managed for the past 15 years by Tatsuya Todo, who was born and raised in the Iya Valley. Friendly and cheerful, Todo wants visitors of Iya to not just see the sights, but to directly interact with the bountiful nature of his beautiful hometown.
There are lots of free brochures and maps for the area available here, as well as plenty of locally made souvenirs.
In particular, there is a wide selection of hand-made wood and bamboo products available which utilize the valley’s abundant forestry resources. Todo is particularly proud that the park’s products aren’t simply sourced from some nameless out-of-town factory, and are instead the creation of local craftsmen, including his own father.
The park is also the location of the hillside Ladybug Monorail ride, a tranquil campground, and provides a place to go swimming in the Iya River (these will be explained more in Part 2 of this article).
And this is also the base for Forest Adventure, which offers challenging tree-climbing ropes courses and a thrilling zip-line over the Iya River (detailed in Part 3).
Another wonderful activity available inside the main building is a chance to create your own wood crafts for a simple 500 yen fee.
A wide range of tools are on offer including saws, knives, and even hot irons for burning stamps into the wood or bamboo.
The main craftsman is Kazuo Koide, who is an expert in working with the local materials. Actually, many of the products available here for purchase were made by him.
Koide will welcomingly show anyone interested how to use the tools and work with the materials to make your own souvenir to take home. If interested in having Koide guide you, it is better to make a reservation beforehand so that you are sure he is available.
In Part 2 we will see what activities are available outside at Iya Fureai Park.
Iya Fureai Park
Open daily 9am-5pm (closed Jan 10- March 1)
Tel: 0883-76-8585 (Japanese only)
For English, contact the Miyoshi Tourism Department here
(Text & Photos by: Shaun Lamzy)
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