Exploring Oboke Gorge – Part 1 | A Natural Wonder of Miyoshi City
The mighty Yoshino River flows across much of Shikoku, and as it cuts its way through the rugged mountains of western Tokushima Prefecture it forms a dramatic canyon called Oboke Gorge. Full of breathtaking scenery, bizarre legends, and enchanting experiences, there is a wide variety on offer in this majestic natural monument.
A place to discover nature
The Iya Valley of Tokushima Prefecture’s Miyoshi City is perhaps the most renowned attraction of the area, but the stunning landscape of neighboring Oboke Gorge is certainly impressive in its own unique way.
Located in the far western corner of the prefecture in central Shikoku, the near-vertical cliffs of Oboke Gorge have been regarded for centuries as a place of both peril and fascination.
Nowadays, this awe-inspiring gorge area, together with neighboring Koboke Gorge that is located just to the north of Oboke, is now registered as a National Natural Monument of Japan.
The name “Oboke” translates as “Big Step Danger”, with many people nowadays claiming the name is from how taking a big step when trying to traverse this precarious place would be quite dangerous. However it is believed that the original name (which has the same pronunciation but with a different meaning) actually just meant “steep cliff”.
Enjoying Oboke’s impressive geology
Stretching about 4 km in length, Oboke Gorge itself was formed approximately 3 million years ago when the strata of the earth here began to rise and the rushing, emerald waters of the Yoshino River carved through the blue-grey stone here.
Seeing the upheaving layers of the earth up close is pretty amazing, and perhaps the best way to do so is by taking a tranquil boat cruise through the gorge upon the river.
The 30 minute long Oboke Boat Cruises operate daily from the Mannaka Service Area, which is located just on the edge of where the gorge is at its steepest and most extreme.
But even if you do not take the boat cruise, simply taking in the views of Oboke Gorge from the Mannaka Service Area is certainly impressive.
Dazzling displays of prosperity
The area around Mannaka becomes even more spectacular in celebration of Children’s Day (May 5th), when dozens of long and colorful carp streamers (“koi-no-bori”) are strung up across the gorge.
The traditions of hanging carp streamers has been done for centuries all across Japan, and is a way for families to wish good fortune for their children.
Usually such streamers are only displayed for the first week of May, but at Mannaka they are hung across the Oboke Gorge from the end of March until the end of May, which allows visitors about 2 months each spring to enjoy this vibrant display.
Accessing Oboke Gorge
National Route 32 goes completely through the gorge, and this curvy yet well traveled road is literally carved into the sheer rock walls of this narrow chasm.
And aside from boating or driving through Oboke, another way to take in the rugged landscape is to just walk along the concourse pathway that is beside Route 32.
From Mannaka, the walkway is full of superb views and goes for about 2.5 km until it reaches the West West Service Area on the opposite side of the gorge. At West West there are a few shops and restaurants.
Also going through the gorge is the JR Dosan Train Line, with the aptly named Oboke Station being the main launching point for not just visiting the gorge but also for accessing the nearby Iya Valley.
But the gorgeous scenery isn’t the only attraction of Oboke, and in Part 2 we discover more about what else there is to see, do, and eat around Oboke Station and the whole gorge area.
For more info about Oboke Gorge
IyaTime Travel Website
Mannaka Service Area (for Oboke Boat Cruises)
West West Service Area
(Text by: Shaun Lamzy, Photos by: Shaun Lamzy & Miyoshi Tourism)
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