A narrowing road, surrounded by stunning greenery, brought us to a bridge made of vines. This suspension bridge in Iya Valley, Shikoku was made using kiwi vines and every three years the locals rebuild it. Ever since it was designated an “Important Tangible Folk Cultural Property” people have been flocking to cross this suspended overpass.
The origin of the bridge is still a mystery, but it is said that it was built by the fallen Taira Clan (Heike Clan) from the Genpei War. Legend says that they chose vine material because if they were pursued by the enemy then they would have the ability to cut it and stop the pursuit. Another story is that Kobo Daishi, founder of the Shingon Sect built the bridge in the 8th century to make it easier for the locals to travel.
Before we descended down the uneven mountain steps to the entrance, the local representative informed us that the bridge was in its third year and ready to be replaced. It was good information to know, but caused a bit of mental strain in the sense that this bridge was close to its’ expiration date and we were going to cross it. They assured us of our safety as steel cables were used to strengthen the structure. They also told us to have a good hold on our cell phones if we plan on taking photos while crossing.
Arriving at the entrance, our journey began and the sounds that echoed through my ears was the creaking of the vine bridge. The planks were thinner and wider apart than I expected. One misstep and my foot would have fallen through. Strategically I applied my weight to where the steel cables were located. As our group came closer to the middle, we heard in the distance someone singing what sounded like an old folk song.
Once in the center, the surrounding scenery made all thoughts of danger disappear. For a few moments it was serene and beautiful. The sun was shining brightly and a gentle breeze cooled our bodies. Then reality came back as we were reminded that we have yet to reach the other side. Continuing on our way, we saw some of the locals crossing without holding the rail and standing with ease. Soon enough we were a few steps away from the end. As we crossed the final threshold we felt relief and satisfaction at the fact we did it.