After an amazing breakfast at Kouya, it was time to bid farewell to that wonderful place and head out on the road again. Amongst the twisting mountain paths we came across the small town of Nagoro, a town famous for being populated by more scarecrows than people. There is kind of a sad story behind it – a resident of Nagoro, having lived somewhere else for a number of years, returned to her hometown to find that most of her friends had passed away or moved somewhere else. Beset by loneliness, she began to make the scarecrows to ‘replace’ the people who once populated the small town. It’s a sad story that shows the struggle of isolated Japanese towns to maintain their population, although Nagoro is now very well known across the world as one of those unique oddities that one can only find in Japan.
If you’re an outdoors type then it certainly would be a good idea for you to visit the Kazura bridges in the Iya Valley. The kazura bridges are essentially vine bridges that were built in a time of conflict – they were made especially rickety in order to have the ability to be chopped down easily in order to frustrate pursuers. Nowadays, the bridges have been reinforced with steel wire so there’s no need to worry about crossing them, but they still feel plenty rickety with footsized gaps in between the slats. I’m willing to bet more than a few iPhones have been lost to the rapids below by people who thought stopping for a selfie on a swaying bridge was a good idea. Other than the cool bridges though, the entire area is a beautiful picnic spot, with crystal clear waters for splashing around in, and generally beautiful nature all around.
Our third stop of the morning was at Tsurugi Shrine, which is at the base of Tsurugi Mountain, a spiritual place with many legends attached to it. At the shrine we met the head priest, who was good enough to cleanse the spirit of Rod Walters of Shikoku Tours – and let’s face it he could probably do with another one by now. The head priest was an outstanding fellow with a great beard, and any hikers who plan on tackling Mt. Tsurugi should drop in for a quick spirit cleansing while you’re there!
Stay tuned for more installments of the Shikoku files, in which I document my trip across this amazing island!