Japan // Shikoku //

The City


Uwajima’s most provocative attraction, the fertility shrine Taga-jinja (多賀神社), is set back from the Suka-gawa, a ten-minute walk north of the JR station. Taga-jinja is to the left as you cross the river, while the larger shrine to the right is Warei-jinja (和霊神社). Taga-jinja has an attached sex museum (daily 8am–5pm; ¥800) and is set in a small compound packed with various statues, some of which assume the shape of penises if looked at from a certain angle – there’s no mistaking the shape of the carved log beside the main shrine building, though. The shrine’s museum, spread over three floors of a bland modern building, is wall-to-wall erotica, with display cases packed with all manner of sexual objects, literature and art. On the ground floor is a collection of Japanese fertility symbols and figurines dating back centuries, while the first floor holds similar objects from around the world, including displays devoted to Tibet, India, Europe and elsewhere; some exhibits are claimed to be the best part of two thousand years old. The smaller of the two rooms on the top floor hosts an impressive collection of five hundred hand-carved wooden statues depicting all sorts of sexual shenanigans – no two are alike. The larger room on this floor has a large selection of Japanese erotic books and prints (shunga) dating back to the Edo and Meiji periods. Downstairs, as you leave the museum, you’ll see two of the most unique souvenirs Shikoku has to offer – rock-hard, life-size candies, unmistakably fashioned after certain parts of the male and female body.

The other shrine, Warei-jinja, is the focal point of the spectacular Warei Taisai, one of Shikoku’s major festivals. Held from the evening of July 22 to July 24, the festival involves huge models of devil bulls (ushi-oni) being paraded in the streets, along with ornate portable shrines, the aim being to dispel evil. The bulls, like giant pantomime horses, eventually do battle in the river, while at the shrine there’s much banging of taiko, bonfire burning and a fireworks finale.

Walking back into the town, keep an eye out for the rather forlorn-looking Uwajima-jō (宇和島城; daily 9am–4pm; ¥200), at the top of the hillside park that rises west of Route 56. The compact, three-storey donjon may be original and certainly gives a fine view of the surrounding city and port, but there’s little other reason to pay the entrance charge. There are two routes up to the donjon, either from the north through the gate of the Kōri samurai family (transferred to the castle ground in 1952), tucked back from the main road behind the post office, or from the Noboritachi-mon gate on the south side of the castle hill.

A short walk south of the castle park is the small formal garden of Tensha-en (天赦園; daily: April–July 8.30am–5pm; Aug–March 8.30am–4.30pm; ¥300). Dating from 1866, the pretty garden is laid out in circular style with a feature made of a wisteria trellis. Nearby, you can also explore the narrow residential streets immediately southeast of the centre. Here shrines, temples and graveyards are huddled on the slopes leading up to the Uwajima Youth Hostel. Even if you’re not staying at the hostel, the hill is worth climbing for sweeping views of the town.

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