Located on the Iida Line, an old local train line that runs through the valley of the Tenryū River in the southern Japan Alps, Iida lies 90 minutes northeast of the major city of Nagoya by automobile via the Chūō Expressway. The same expressway also provides access to Tokyo, about four hours to the east.
An old castle town of strategic importance in the Edo Period, Iida escaped the bombings that damaged many other Japanese cities during World War II; however, most of central Iida was destroyed by a massive fire that swept through the central section of the city two years after the end of the war, in 1947. Established as a city on April 1, 1937, Iida is now known for its streets lined with apple trees, which were part of a revitalization project initiated by its citizens after the fire.
Since 1979 the city of Iida has hosted the Iida Puppetry Festival, a major event that is the largest of its kind in Japan, with over 200 traditional and contemporary troupes from all over Japan and abroad participating in the annual four-day festival in early August. In 2008 the city hosted a nine-day version of the festival with expanded international participation to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the puppetry festival. Iida's connection to the traditional Japanese puppet theater commonly known as ningyō jōruri or Bunraku goes back more than 300 years. Four traditional puppet troupes are located in or near Iida: the Imada Puppet Troupe, Kuroda Puppet Troupe, the Furuta Puppets, and the Waseda Puppets.
Beginning in July, there are many festivals at local shrines. One aspect of these festivals that surprises visitors is the quantity of fireworks. One of the biggest and most spectacuar displays of fireworks is the Tōrō-nagashi festival, in Tokimata, held around the 16th of August. The fireworks are shot off over as well as on the surface of the Tenryu River. Another important festival in Iida is Oneri Matsuri, which is held every seventh year (the last being 2004, the next in March, 2010), a massive four-day event, most famous for the shi-shi lion dance.
The nearest large metropolis to Iida is Nagoya, which is easily accessible by bus (about 2 hours). The larger cities of Matsumoto and Nagano in central and northern Nagano Prefecture are also accessible by bus and train. And there is also bus service to Shinjuku, Tokyo (about 4 hours).
Iida has adopted the apple as its symbol. One of the city's largest festivals is the Ringon Matsuri (Apple Festival), held every year in early August, and Iida's Ringo Namiki-dori (a street lined with apple trees) is tended by students of the city's Higashi Middle School. The area around Iida is well known for extensive peach, apple, and persimmon orchards, as well as the production of many other agricultural products, including Asian pears (nashi) and strawberries. A local specialty is hoshi-gaki, or dried persimmons.
Iida is also known for the production of mizuhiki.