Iya’s World Champions

The Iya Valley is nestled deep in the heart of Shikoku and is considered one of Japan’s ‘hidden regions’. It is little known, little visited, and quite remote. It is also stunningly beautiful. How do we know all of this? Because we live there – at least for the moment!

Now that you know about it, you might be surprised to hear that Iya and its surrounding area are hosting a World event – and not for the first time!

Thanks to the Yoshinogawa (or Yoshino River) this part of Shikoku is ideal for many water sports including kayaking, canyoning, rafting, and even wakeboarding! Although only the second longest river in Shikoku, the Yoshinogawa is regarded as one of the three greatest rivers in Japan (along with the Tone and the Chikugo). It is this river that has attracted many tourists to Shikoku and the Iya Valley in the past two years.

In October 2017, Japan hosted the World Rafting Championships for the first time – right here on our doorstep in Oboke gorge. Unfortunately we hadn’t arrived yet (didn’t even know that Iya existed in fact), and so did not get to experience it first hand. I did find this video however, that not only gives an example of the world class rapids, but also a peek at the beauty of this area.

Ikeda (or Miyoshi) is a sleepy little town about an hour away from us. It is where we go to do our food shopping, meet up with friends, and for the occasional meal out. To be honest, it is nothing to write home about. Yet, this week it has become a hive of activity as competitors from 30 different countries arrived to take part in the 2018 Wakeboard World Championships!

At the point know as ‘Ikeda Lake’ the river widens to create the perfect space to host such an event. We visited for the opening day in time to witness the boys U14s putting their impressive skills to the test.

Under the fierce sun, children paddled in the shallows, foreigners tasted new dishes from the selection of food trucks (including a Cat-Bus!), and the wakeboarders did their 540s and Scarecrows (yeah, I have no idea what that actually means either) while the photographers snapped away (ankle deep in the river). I can honestly say that it was nice to see so many people of different nationality brought together by a common interest in such a unique place. I doubt any of them would have know about the area had the event not been held there!

So next time you are looking for a spot to partake in your favourite watersport, why not consider the Iya Valley?

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