The sex museum next to the Taga fertility shrine in Uwajima is one of the weirdest places on Shikoku, if not Japan.
Over the years the shrine has become more of a preface to the visual overload of the adjoining sex museum. The shrine itself is compact and interesting, but the museum is much more intense and certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted. Photography inside the museum is prohibited, unless you're willing to pay the considerable fee. But perhaps that’s for the best, as memories of some of the creepier exhibits will stay with you for a lifetime.
Uwajima is an otherwise sleepy town in southern Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku. It has a decent JR station and a quiet shopping street with 1960s facades in slight need of renovation. It takes about 10 minutes’ walk from the station to get to the Taga shrine, which is found in a quiet neighborhood. The shrine is famed for its fertility benefits, though as most residents I encountered were of the older demographic, I wondered who was benefiting.
Many of the fertility-themed sculptures at Taga-jinja are subtle and sparsely dotted around the shrine, including several comedic tanuki figures. The biggest and most famous wooden carving of all is hard to miss - the giant penis is displayed at the center of the garden.
The sex museum literally and figuratively overshadows these playful figurines. The museum is three storeys high, and each floor is utterly crammed full of an international selection of unapologetically graphic sexual artworks, photographs, and paraphernalia.
The collection is nothing if not broad ranging, though most of the content has a heterosexual focus. The curator pays homage to numerous erotic practices and taboos from Japan and around the globe. Little cultural or historic explanation is provided, in any language - it could be argued that the pieces speak for themselves. However, in the dim light of windowless building, a definite uneasiness accompanies the visit. One wonders whether the collection is more one man’s private obsession rather than a legitimate anthropological project.
The museum exposes the enduring erotic obsessions of Japan and rest of the world, but it pushes the boundaries further than most would be comfortable with. This experience appeals to the curious but definitely takes time to mentally unwind from, as even world-wearied visitors will see things with the power to entertain, astonish, and disturb.