Iyakei Gorge in Autumn Part 3 | A Riverside Hot Spring and Lunch with a View
Treasured for its natural beauty, the Iyakei Gorge in Tokushima’s Miyoshi City is particularly stunning in the autumn. Along with several viewpoints, the gorge is also home to Hotel Iya Onsen, which offers day-use hot-springs and a restaurant with a fantastic view.
Hotel Iya Onsen: a special place in the heart of Iyakei Gorge
Aside from simply enjoying the amazing views, another reason to visit Iyakei Gorge is to go to the one and only hot spring located within this part of the valley.
Located just a minute or two by car from the Peeing Boy Statue, Hotel Iya Onsen is situated on an equally impressive outcrop on the mountainside a couple hundred meters above the river below.
The main hot spring baths themselves are located at the bottom of the valley beside the river, where warm geothermic waters naturally bubble out of the earth.
Apparently the Iya people have known of these natural hot springs since times immemorial and sought out this area to bathing and healing long before the current hotel was built here several decades ago. Historically, this area was called “Furonotani”, which means “Valley of the Bath”.
Taking a cable-car down to the baths
From the hotel, the hot spring baths are accessed by a funicular cable-car. At the upper cable-car station at the hotel, the view from the balcony here is breathtaking.
There is also a miniature Peeing Boy Statue set up here with some sunflower seeds available, such that if you hold a seed out in your hand, small mountain birds are tame enough to fly in to take this little snack.
The cable-car down the mountain takes about 7 or 8 minutes, and in the autumn the colorful foliage all around makes the trip even more spectacular.
Then, once at the baths, the soothing pleasure of the naturally warm water coupled with the gurgling emerald waters of the Iya River flowing by is no doubt an extraordinary experience.
Enjoying a local lunch with gorgeous views
Back up at the hotel, if feeling hungry for lunch or just a drink, then be sure to stop by their restaurant called “Cafe Dining HANA”.
Surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass windows, the view from the restaurant looking out into the Iyakei Gorge is sublime. While here, you will probably hear the Japanese patrons exclaim as they enter for the first time “Kawaii!” or “Suggoi!”, which mean “scary” or “amazing”.
The lunch menu has a variety of offerings, all based on traditional Iya meals or using special local ingredients. We opted to have the Grilled and Salted River Trout Set and the Awa Beef Bowl Set.
Grilled river trout is a locally produced dish that is a favorite within the Iya Valley. The fish is salted before being slow roasted, making it a crispy on the outside, but tender inside.
And Awa Beef is from special cows of the region (Awa is the traditional name for Tokushima Prefecture). Served with green onions and roasted garlic, the beef was particularly juicy and was especially enjoyable with the mountain view.
Both sets came with seasonal vegetables and pickles, along with hearty bowls of hand-made “Iya Soba”, which are buckwheat noodles made in the traditional style by a local soba master.
The hotel’s restaurant is open for lunch on limited days with a season schedule, but the hot spring baths are open for day-use pretty much every day of the year. When the restaurant is open it is also possible to reserve special lunch-bath daytime combination plans which offer special “kaiseki” lunch sets. Check the hotel’s website for more information on such courses which would be particularly enjoyable while also taking in the spectacular autumn colors.
Hotel Iya Onsen
For more information about the Iyakei Gorge and the rest of the Iya Valley in English, see here:
(Text by: Shaun Lamzy, Photos by: Hotel Iya Onsen & Shaun Lamzy)
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