There are lots of green tree coated valleys in Japan. To an idiot untrained eye, they can start to feel the same. “Look at the trees. They`re very green”, is usually all I can tell people.
The Iya Valley is special though. Not only green trees, but killer babies and hungry witch-goblins lurk in the hills. On a bus tour yesterday, I came across these particualr yokai (ghosts or goblins) at an exhibition at Lapis Oboke.
The kawa-akago (baby who drowns people in rivers) and oniuba (witch-goblin who lurks outside shirnes at night waiting for people to come by so she can eat them) were particularly memorable. These yokai characters might all be fictional, but they look familiar enough to be scary. A Japanese lady was so unnerved by the yokai, she waited for me to walk alongside her. ( No romance here, she was older than the witch-goblin)
We rode on from the yokai exhibition, to kazurabashi, a vine bridge crossing high over the Iya river. The crossing was short but the wide gaps between the wooden planks make it a hairy crossing for some.
Seeing wire suspension barely hidden amongst the vines, I felt braver, confident enough even to look at others around me. Unfortunately, there was no damsel pleading for my help.
Scarier than the vine bridge, was the journey back. It started innocently, with the bus driver stopping for us to photograph a boy pissing into a valley. Then we came to a series of sharp narrow bends. For some reason, the yankee (punk) driver took a break from the brakes.
The bus and its contents somehow emerged unscathed. The yankee driver seemed chuffed as the Japanese passengers rewarded him with a round of applause, while I, speechlessly sat behind him, had been only inches away from donating him my soba noodle lunch.
Anyway, it was a great day amongst the very green trees.