The Light of Iya Valley

A Photo-Series

By Shintaro Miyawaki

Compiled and Written by Amir Bagheri
(Special Thanks to Naoki Shiota)

Around a thousand years ago, on March 22, 1195, an epic battle took place in Takamatsu city, in Japan. The battle is known as “Battle of Yashima” which was part of a greater series of wars, known in Japanese history as “Genpai War”.

The Genpai War was a conflict between the Taira and Minamoto clans, which lasted for five years. Before this war, the Taira clan, also known as “Heike” (House of Taira), was one of the main four clans that dominated the Japanese politics from 794 to 1185.

The Battle of Yashima led to the downfall of Heike, which forced the remaining members of House of Taira to flee their homes in order to avoid brutal death. Not too far from their homes in Takamatsu, they managed to find rescue in the mountains of Tokushima Prefecture. Deep in the forests of Tokushima, there is a heaven known as “Iya Valley“; a place that became the safe haven for the remaining members of Heike.

For near a thousand years, the few people that managed to survive from the Taira clan have been living in the Iya Valley. Over the past few centuries, they have managed to build villages and a community that they call their own again. It is worth noting that they are (almost) completely off-the-grid from the Japanese government today, and have a fully self-sufficient anarchy, powered by renewable energies and organic farming.

This photo-series was captured by Shintaro Miyawaki, a renowned Japanese photographer, and a person I have the honour to call my friend. In my conversation with him, over a cup of coffee, he told me that he initially became interested in doing this project because he wanted to represent the minority groups, who are isolated, throughout Japan; as he feels a great amount of sympathy towards them.

What stood out to Shintaro, during this project, was the unique personality that people in the Iya Valley carried. He mentioned the lack of hope that is present amongst people who live there, yet there is a sense of pride as they are independent of the outside world.

While the younger generation is, now, slowly fleeing from Iya Valley, there are many others who are leaving their jobs and homes, from other parts of Japan, to join this community.

The following images are some of the photos from this phenomenal project.

You can purchase the photobook, “The Light of Iya Valley” on Amazon; or if you’re in Japan you can buy it directly from Shintaro himself at his Coffee Shop & Bookstore.