Oku-Iya, Ochiai Village and Nagoro Scarecrow Village 奥祖谷
March 28th. Tuesday
Very reasonable night at Michi no eki Musasabi no sato. but very cold as we are at some elevation. The facilities are reasonable. Fresh flowers! It is busy in the morning and the parking is close to the road, but the road is quiet during the night.
We leave and take the road towards the famous vine bridge in the Iya valley. This place is very popular with foreign tourists for some reason. We do not view the bridge but press on, on Route 439 towards Mt. Tsurugi. This narrow and tortuous road we follow basically all day.
Ochiai Village Observatory 落合集落展望所
First, we stop at michi no eki Oboke but only to enquire about the road situation because Route 439 is difficult road. We discover some sections of the road to Ochiai Village are closed, so we need to take a detour.
Arriving at Ochiai Village Observatory, we stop to look across the valley at the village spread high across the opposite hillside. This is a preservation site; the village has existed a long time and is associated with the Heike legends.
While we are having a lunch at the observation point, another couple arrive by taxi. The lady asked the taxi driver how the villagers made a living. I had assumed most people worked in forestry, but the driver said the majority work in construction. By this he probably means road maintenance.
Our preferred route, to continue on Route 439, is not possible due to road closures, so we head towards Mt. Tsurugi through Nagoro, the village where the proliferation of scarecrow people throughout Japan is supposed to have originated.
Nagoro Scarecrow village 名頃かかしの里
Now the village barely exists, but the number of scarecrows is prodigious. The earlier creations, usually involved in agricultural activities are now very weather worn, but the more recent versions in the village hall or the abandoned school are vibrant.
We passed this way and walked around a few years ago but since then the place has become famous and featured on a TV program. This time there are other people about, tourist taking pictures of the scarecrows. None of these visitors is Japanese, very odd.
Winding our way on, we come to the ropeway at the foot of Mt. Tsurugi. This is not operational. Too late for skiing and too early for casual climbers, I suppose.
We descend on Route 438 to Mima. Here we buy supplies and head for Tokushima until we take a right turn for Kamiyama to reach our michi no eki, Onsen no Sato Kamiyama.
The wonderfully prolific Yamasakura, (wild cherry) on the hillsides has been a feature of this trip so far. Today was no exception, there were splendid sights everywhere, but nothing compared to the road to Kamiyama. All along the way a profusion of cherry blossom notably the darker, duskier pink of the Shidare-zakura, weeping cherry. Absolutely magnificent.
The michi no eki Onsen no sato Kamiyama has a nearby onsen, a fine way to end the day.
＊Kamiyama onsen Iyashi-no-yu ; 680 yen /adult (Now closed for a period due to major construction, May 2023)
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.