Shortly after my arrival in Tokushima, I went to the local book store and bought the first tourist guide to meet my eye. Flipping through the pages, I quickly passed over the well-known spots like the whirlpools of Naruto and the Iya Valley Vine Bridge, and started searching for the lesser-known treasures the prefecture had to offer.
Moving on to steadily smaller and smaller articles, I finally came across one that said something along the lines of “model dinosaurs on the road.” And sure enough, the stamp-sized picture devoted to this haven for pre-historic creatures showed a large stegosaurus and diplodocus standing by the roadside way out in the dark corners of Japan.
I was smitten.
There was no logical reason for my desire to travel there, and I knew full well it had almost no chance of matching up with the grand expectations I had formed. After all, it was located in a part of the prefecture with so few roads that the map looked more like a line randomly drawn across a sheet of paper, and the size of the article spoke for itself. And yet, for the next two years I made it my goal to get there one way or the other.
Having failed to get there in one way or the other for the better part of two years, I had all but given up on my chances of making a visit. It was only after I got married and found myself in the company of a person with a car that I remembered my unfulfilled dream, pulled out the guidebook and shoved my unsuspecting wife into the car before she was any the wiser for our destination.
And finally, I made my way to the Kyouruu no Sato, the Home of Dinosaurs.
A Home of Sorts
Everything aside, the story behind the Kyouryuu no Sato is a very simple and relatively recent one. It all began around fourteen years ago in the April of 1994, when the first ever fossil dinosaur remains on Shikoku were found there in the form of an Iguanodon’s tooth. In celebration, the local townspeople came together to build statues of dinosaurs that you can still see standing there today.
In a word, the area is very quaint. The statues of dinosaurs, looking almost as old as the creatures they mimic, make for a very enjoyable sight, and there is a small building nearby with a little information about the area and some sample fossils. But apart from the dinosaurs, there is little else to see and do there unless you are a fan of park benches or the wild outdoors, and even then it’s a bit of a stretch. For those who do want to make the best of their surroundings, however, there is a small track nearby to a river where you can have a picnic and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
The Road to Danger
The Kyouryuu no Sato itself is not be that grand, but just like life, it’s less about where you end up and more about what you do along the way. And as one might expect from a place called the Home of Dinosaurs, the road leading to it is almost like a gateway to another realm. Remember the scene from Jurassic Park where Sam Neil and the other arrive on the island and travel through thick jungle and large electric fences? Picture this, but with a lot less giant electric fences and palm trees and more random farmhouses and people riding scooters at breakneck speeds down tight, twisting mountain roads.
Unfortunately, you have to be a little cautious as you go along, as the Kyouryuu no Sato is definitely a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ type of attraction. The minute you see a sign or any hint of dinosaurs along the way, stop right where you are and you’ll have arrived. Indeed, at first sight you might be forgiven (or at least I hope I will be) for mistaking it for the entrance way to bigger things to come, but don’t be mislead!
And for the curious who wish to keep going after you get to the dinosaurs, beware! The scenery beyond the Kyouryuu no Sato is very beautiful, complete with a very scenic waterfall by the roadside that isn’t very well known, but you can easily get yourself into trouble. All mobile contact cuts off shortly down the track, the roads turn to rocks and broken shale, and there are no houses to be seen for a very long time. So take care if you decide to push on or you might find yourself up a certain famous creek without a paddle.
The Kyouryuu no Sato is every bit as difficult to get to as you might imagine. It’s already a small adventure by car, but the especially fearless can take the bus from Tokushima City headed to Katsuura (勝浦線) and get off at Tanano (棚野). From here, it is a short ONE AND A HALF HOUR walk. Lots of fresh air awaits.
If you are interested in going by car, however, the below map might be of some service to you. The Kyoryuu no Sato isn’t marked, but if you stay on the road shown then you find it along the way.