Day 5, 1st January 2009: Uwajima City, Ehime Prefecture
The first day of the new year was unfortunately marred by the closure of all eateries but fast-food outlets. That Uwajima City is less like a city than a quiet town meant that searching for decent meals was made even harder. However, a visit to the Taga Shrine and its bizarre accompanying attraction made the day worthwhile.
Numerous Shinto shrines are closely linked to fertility rituals, and Taga Shrine is one of the few such shrines remaining. Its grounds are hence home to amusing carvings and statues, as well as huge tree-trunk phalluses which provided backdrops to some rather interesting photos. The highlight on its grounds though, is the Dekoboko Shindo. This three-storey sex museum is filled – from floor to ceiling – with prints, drawings, pottery and carvings from all over the world, including the Karmasutra and Japanese erotic manga. Visitors can even purchase protective charms with dangling male genitalia, but we felt that just viewing the exhibits was enough.
Day 6, 2nd January 2009: Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture
Despite being Shikoku’s largest city, Matsuyama possesses a tranquil, picturesque charm in line with the general atmosphere of the island. Rising above the city stands Matsuyama Castle, a fine specimen of one of Japan’s original castles. The new year celebrations provided us the opportunity to try our hands at some traditional Japanese new year games too. One of them was Hanetsuki, which resembles badminton but proved deceptively difficult to get the hang of due to the racket used.
After the morning’s exertions, a visit to the nearby Dogo Onsen seemed the perfect way to wind down. The oldest hot spring in Japan, Dogo Onsen looked arresting with its castle-like architecture and traditional design facets. Unfortunately, it was so packed inside due to the holidays that it was quite impossible to relax. We ended up snacking on the area’s famous Botchan-Dango – delectably sweet rice dumplings on skewers – to calm our spirits instead.
Day 7, 3rd January 2009: Shodoshima Island, Kagawa Prefecture
Our final day in Shikoku was spent leisurely driving around Shodoshima Island, northeast of Kawaga Prefecture. Its moderate climate resembles that of the Mediterranean, and is an ideal place for cultivating olives which the island is famous for. Naturally, we had to visit Olive Garden, where we strolled through groves of olive trees and sampled a variety of olive products. Their olive oil moisturising lotion seemed like a great purchase for the dry winter, although the olive-flavoured chocolate was a souvenir we all agreed we could do without.
On Shodoshima Island is also an interesting monkey park, and we stopped our car nearby to take pictures of a group of monkeys on the road. Nature proved somewhat threatening though, when two monkeys tried to enter the vehicle through the open windows. Our quick reflexes at winding up the windows were all that kept them out! We returned to the main island and concluded our memorable trip of Shikoku soon after, having had enough interesting experiences – till the time for our next vacation comes around.