Wandering Over the Treetops – The Aya Teruha Suspension Bridge
Miyazaki prefecture has no shortage of sweeping forest and mountain views and one of the best ways to see it is from up above. Sure, you could try and charter a helicopter but a much easier and cheaper way to get the same feeling is via the Aya Teruha suspension bridge.
Aya is a picturesque little town about an hour west of Miyazaki City and located right next to Japan’s largest evergreen forest. The forest is registered with UNESCO as a biosphere reserve and is home to a large number of plants and animals. Perched high up in the mountains is the Aya Teruha suspension bridge, a huge walkway stretching out over the Ayaminami River with its highest point 142 metres above the valley below. The bridge offers a stunning view of this natural forest and the river flowing far below it. The bridge is 250 metres long and offers a good walk across its expanse. Most recently renovated in 2011, the bridge is very sturdily built and doesn't move at all as you cross but even so, it’s possibly not the best place to go if you’re uncomfortable with heights.
Access to the bridge costs 300 yen and crossing it leads you to a walking trail that winds 2kms through the forest over the course of about 50 minutes. There is also a shorter (but somewhat strenuous) course that takes you up to a small shrine just above the bridge. It's a great place to walk in all seasons as long as it’s not raining. If you're lucky enough, you might spot some of the local wildlife as you make your way through the trees. Of course, there's always the option of returning back over the bridge if you just came for the view.
Next to the bridge is a small visitor's centre that highlights some of the natural flora and fauna of the forest. The Aya Evergreen Forest is home to a large number of birds including various species of owls and hawks. It is also the southernmost habitat of the Japanese Serow, a deer-like animal that was once endangered but has now returned to a healthy population thanks to years of conservation efforts. The visitor's centre has information mostly in Japanese with a little bit of English, but even so, it’s well worth looking at thanks to the striking models of animals throughout. The centre's upstairs area also holds a large number of interesting displays on how people have lived in the area throughout its history, including examples of local crafts, hunting implements and historical photos.
Miyazaki prefecture is full of natural wonders and the Aya Teruha suspension bridge is one of the best places to get a good view of some of its gorgeous forests. Aya Town itself is also worth a visit and has a number of tourist attractions to keep anyone busy including Aya Castle. The suspension bridge is best accessed by car, however you can also take a bus from Miyazaki City to Aya, followed by a short taxi ride to the bridge.