By Mandy Bartok
There's no shortage of places to find a bowl of hand-cut soba in the Iya Valley. These chewy noodles, made with locally grown buckwheat, are one of the staples of this secluded corner of Shikoku. But if you want to slurp your noodles in sight of one of the region's many beautiful gorges, make sure to score a seat on the terrace at Iya Bijin.
Iya Bijin is both a hotel and a restaurant, located just a few curves in the road from the intersection of rural Routes 32 and 45 in the western part of the Iya Valley. If you're hungry, this is one of the best places to stop for lunch. The menu offers the region's popular soba, of course, but there are several sets on offer for lunch and a full menu of individual plates to choose from. For the sets, the main dishes include selections like yakiniku-style beef with vegetables or fried chicken, karaage style. The sets all comes with a side of rice and miso soup, as well as the obligatory plate of pickles. You also get a small bowl of Iya soba to go with it all. The larger menu is entirely in Japanese, so may be difficult for non-Japanese speakers to navigate, but the daily lunch menu has photos of all the sets. All of the sets on the day we went were under ¥1,000.
The terrace is the best seat in the house on a sunny day, allowing you views down into the Iya River. If the weather is disagreeable, there are plenty of seats inside the restaurant as well, ranging from regular tables and chairs to tatami style seating on a raised platform.
Should you find you want to take a taste of the Iya Valley home with you, the small on-site gift corner sells bags of fresh soba noodles as well as bags of local sweets.
Iya Bijin also offers accommodation and you can check their website for more on nightly prices as well as their facilities. The location can't be beat - not only do you have marvelous views, but you are only a short drive from the famous Kazurabashi vine bridge and the Oboke gorge with its daily sightseeing cruises and yokai (goblin) folklore museum.
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