Article updated on May 25, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
When the Heike clan lost the Shido-no-Ura battle against the Geinji Clan in the 13th century, they were forced to flee and live in the remote mountains of the Iya Valley on Shikoku Island.
The legend says they built vine bridges over the river so that they could cut them off and escape their pursuers. The bridges became the lifeline of the inhabitants of these mountains, also serving for trade and pilgrimages up Mount Tsurugi. They were often doubled with a yaen (a wooden box tied up to a rope on which you would pull to transport goods or people across the river).
If you are up for a thrill, you can still cross these swaying and slippery bridges over the roaring waters of the Iya River in two locations: Iya-no-Kazura Bashi and Oku-Iya Niju Kazura Bashi.
Like in the ancient times, the bridges are maintained by locals. They are rebuilt every three years and made of the Actinidia Arguta vine, a tough vine that grows aggressively in the mountains of Shikoku. Two vines are grown on each side of the river, and then woven together before the bridge is planked.
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