Looking for an easy but exciting way to spend the day? The many (rickety) suspension bridges of Shizuoka Prefecture’s Sumatakyo Gorge will give you the Indiana Jones-ey feeling that you haven’t had since childhood. The most famous, and the most rickety, of these suspension bridges is the Yume no Tsuri Bashi. It’s an easy 2~3 kilometer round-trip walk from the Sumatakyo’s bus stop. The bridge is strung across the inlet of a small reservoir just upstream of the dam. The sign at the bridge entrance warns that no more than 11 people at a time should try to cross the bridge. That’s no surprise as the bridge’s walkway is only about 30-35cm wide and the whole bridge bounces, sways and rolls a lot as you walk across. Take your hands off the completely inadequate-feeling wire hand rail if you dare! A fall into the water below is only too easy to envision. The water in the reservoir, however, is the same turquoise-blue of lakes and rivers in the Canadian Rockies. A fall into that might not be as bad as you imagine.
In June, fresh spring green foliage covered the canyon walls and mountains surrounding the Yume no Tsuri Bashi all the way down to the water’s edge. The temperature was also more pleasant here than it was in the cities nearer the coast. In November, autumn’s fire lit the mountainsides in a spectacular display of color. Recent heavy rain meant the water in the reservoir had turned to brown. A previous, rain-free trip to the nearby Sessokyo did show me the incredible contrast between autumn fire and glacier-lake blue. It’s my favorite way to enjoy the leaves.
Getting to the Sumatakyo is an adventure in and of itself. Without a car you’ll need to get on the Oigawa Railway at Kanaya Station and take it all the way to Senzu. To make the journey even more fun, the Oigawa Railway is one of the few railways left in Japan that still has an operating steam engine! It runs 3 times a day in each direction and is a great time for the train enthusiast and for kids. From Senzu a bus will take you the final 20 kilometers to the Sumatakyo. Check with Senzu Station’s information office for the bus schedule and fares.
There are loads of other bridges all over the area. Besides the Yume no Tsuri Bashi, the Saru Ami no Tsuri Bashi, visible from the trail to the Yume no Tsuri Bashi, is another very easy walk away from the bus stop. If you’ve got a car or time to stay the night, and you’re looking for a real adventure then make the 10km hike out to Muso no Tsuri Bashi deeper into the woods behind the Yume no Tsuri Bashi. It hasn’t received any maintenance at all since the 1950’s and the wooden parts of the bridge are falling apart. Cross at your own risk! Once you’ve finished your adventure, there’s the obligatory collection of restaurants and souvenir shops gathered around the entrance to the Sumatakyo. There’s even some onsen. Rickety Indiana Jones bridges aside, it’s an easy day out. Happy travels!