The Vine Bridges of Iya Valley

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Does anyone who has visited the vine bridges/Iya Valley in general have tips for getting around the area? Has anyone attempted to do it via public transport or some sort of organized tour, or is a car essential?

It is possible but you will need several days to see all of the attractions (Mt Tsurugi, all three vine bridges, the scarecrow village, the peeing man statue) if you do public transit due to how infrequent it is.
I went from Oboke station. There are large buses with a regular schedule that service most major ryokans and the kazurabashi area. To go further in you’ll need to take a combination of the bus and infrequent community van. I found the community van information on the tourism website and used google translate. The van and bus can be quite expensive and only take cash if I remember right but will get you all the way to the hiking entrance of Mt Tsurugi. Additionally you can hike on the side of the road but it’s quite dangerous without a large median and several winding curves (plus it takes a long time).

There are some tours that offer transit and if you are in a group it might be cheaper to order a taxi. The people at the ryokan and at the office in the train station were really helpful when I asked for directions and advice. Additionally the locals made sure I got off at the right stop when I was taking the van.

To clarify I arrived in the early afternoon, took a train to Kazurabashi, spent the night, went to the other bridges, ate at the cafe there and hiked up to the scarecrow village, then took the last van/bus combo to the station and made it back to Okayama by 9pm