Friday 16 October 2015

JNTO FamTrip 2015: Iya Valley & Tokushima

In late September and early October, Unique Japan Tours joined a familiarization trip organised by the Japan National Tourist Organisation. The purpose of these trips is to introduce new, unique places in Japan to promote trips there. The familiarization trip (or "famtrip") we joined took us from Okayama and Kurashiki, down into Tokushima, to Shodoshima and finally to Himeji.

Of course, we knew most of these places already, and we've sent many of our clients to these places to. But we always want to learn more, look deeper and see what's new and exciting. Over the next few blog posts, we're going to explore the areas we visited, introduce them to you, and share some of our pictures.

Today is part two, where we’ll talk about the Iya Valley and Tokushima.

Iya Valley

Located in the western part of Tokushima prefecture, and almost exactly in the middle of Shikoku Island, the Iya Valley is famous for its dramatic mountainous slopes, deep rocky gorges and river valleys. Historically the area was very hard to access, and legend has it the Taira clan retreated here after being defeated by the Minamoto clan in the 12th century. The Taira clan built a number of vine bridges across the valleys of the area, but in such a way that they could be destroyed by a single cut if they were being pursued. We visited one of the remaining vine bridges, or kazurabashi, and also took a river boat trip.
You have to cross the Seto Inland Sea to get to Shikoku Island.

The rugged mountainous terrain near the Iya Valley.

The vine bridge, or kazarabashi, in the Iya Valley.

Crossing the bridge can be a bit heart in the mouth.

The vines holding the kazarabashi together.

The Yoshino River boat boarding point.

Cruising down the peaceful river.

Some beautiful scenery to be seen from the boat.

Indigo Dyeing

We stopped off to take part in some cultural activities! Aizome, or indigo dyeing, is a traditional craft where you dye clothes, jeans, handkerchiefs and so on with leaves from the Japanese indigo plant. The process is completely natural, and depending on how elaborate you want to make your design, can take anywhere from 20 minutes to a number of hours. It was a fun experience, and we got to take home our own unique, hand dyed handkerchief at the end.
The experience begins with a beautiful white handkerchief.

Dipping the handkerchief in the dye.

You need to let the dye oxidize before dipping in again.

After dyeing the cloth it needs to be rinsed.

Almost there!

We used an iron to dry out the cloth.


Tokushima is the capital city of Tokushima prefecture, located right on the mouth of the Yoshino River. This city is home to the Awa Odori Festival, a huge dance festival that takes place once a year. This dance festival is the second largest dance festial in the world, second only to Carnival in Brazil. The festival attracts over 13 million visitors between 12th to 15th August. But if you can’t make the festival, there’s the Awa Odori Kaikan, where we went to, to see one of the dance troupe perform. This was an amazing experience, and you even get to join in. There is also a local chicken delicacy called Awa Otori, which is a play on the word “O”, which means big and “tori” which means bird. Make sure to try it!
These guys will be playing the music for the dancing.

Male dancers can dance with their hands moving anywhere.

The lady dancers keep their hands inside shoulder width.

The dancers doing their thing.

Two soloists dance around each other.

What do you think of the photos? Have you been to the Iya Valley or Tokushima? Have you tried Japanese indigo dyeing? What did you think? Please share in the comments below.

If you've never been there, but would love to, why not contact us and let us know. We'd be more than happy to help you plan a trip that includes these wonderful destinations!

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