Western Tokushima Prefecture's spectacular Iya Valley is full of gorgeous scenery, but narrow roads and few pull-offs make it hard for the average traveler to stop and admire the view. That's why the open spaces and handy facilities at Iya Fureai Park in the Nishi Iya (Western Iya) region make the perfect place for families to spend a little quality time together in the outdoors.
The park is marked by its unusual bridge, boasting a curved support beam that runs overhead. The bridge leads from the parking area and small gift shop (selling local products such as the area's famous soba noodles) to the rather unique monorail. Visitors pile into ladybug cars - we managed to fit two adults and one toddler in our car - and sit back for the slow-moving ride up the hill. While the route, which covers some 430 meters, feels like a roller coaster, your descent is controlled and you never move faster than a walking pace.
Though some might not consider it worth the price (¥400 for adults, half price for children in elementary school or above), you DO get treated to some pretty stellar views from the top of the tracks. On the way down, your ladybug will pass by a grove of cherry trees. Time it right and you'll get to enjoy a little sakura viewing in early spring.
While the monorail seems to be the park's main highlight, you can also opt to take the path down to the river and spread out your picnic gear along the sandy banks. The water is fairly slow moving at this location so even younger kids can have the chance to get wet and skip some rocks through the river. Should you be interested in spending the night in the great outdoors, you can also rent campsites here in the park.
The Iya Fureai Park is served by a local bus but it only passes by a few times a day. For drivers, you can find the property a short drive west of the Oboke area on Route 45, just before the road meets with Route 32. Use the aforementioned bridge as your landmark and you can't miss it.