April 20, 2017
Tsushimachō Iwamatsu can be thought of as a suburb of Uwajima. Today’s brief 15-kilometre walk, which takes us from the former to the latter, follows a busy road lined with a non-stop collage of roadside shops and big-box sheds. It’s a utilitarian stretch of car-based enterprises typical of a North American exurban strip. Yet, here in Japan, it is an entertaining journey.
It all seems so familiar, yet exotic. Gas stations, pachinko palaces, auto dealerships, barber shops, 100-yen stores and fishmongers draw our attention as we make our way downtown. We meet a fellow long-distance walker from the Netherlands. Where? At a Lawson’s, of course. Our walk ends, appropriately, at a another Lawson convenience store, this one huddled alongside the lobby of the Uwajima Orient Hotel.
It was just two days ago that we bussed to the city for some rest and relaxation. Here we are again, having walked the distance this time, with an afternoon free to do a bit more exploration. Uwajima is not home to one of the 88 temples on the Henro-michi, but it does have its own collection charming and off-beat temples.
The Warei Shrine is certainly charming. An arched-stone bridge leads us across a small canal, through a handsome stone Torii gate and up to the Shinto temple complex, nestled on a forested slope overlooking the city.
Off-beat is an apt description for the Taga Shrine, less than a kilometre further down the canal. It’s a Shinto fertility shrine, intended to bestow long life, health and cure diseases. The temple’s compact grounds are packed with statuary, many of them phalluses, both small and very, very large. Just past the Awashima Shrine, said to help cure female illnesses, is what looks like a modern office building. But the Deko-Boko Hall is a three-storey museum jammed with sex-related artifacts from around the world. A temple like no other!
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