Uwajima City (宇和島市) is located in Ehime Prefecture (map) on Shikoku.
While Uwajima Castle – as one of the 12 remaining “original castle structures” in Japan – is the main attraction, there are several other tourist spots I recommend and want to introduce today.
Uwajima City’s Protective Smybol
When you walk through the city, you’ll run into this creature called “Ushioni” (lit.: cow / bull demon). It is a protective symbol and there’s even a yearly “Ushi-Oni Festival” in late July in Uwajima City.
The manhole covers in the city also feature the cow demon.
When strolling through the tiny shopping street near the train station, you’ll see a lot of ushi-oni masks.
A short 10 mins walk away from JR Uwajima Station is Warei Shrine (和霊神社).
It’s one of the largest shrines in Shikoku and thus worth a visit. There are no opening hours and no admission fee, so you can go there anytime.
The stone gate that marks the entrance to the shrine is one of the biggest in Japan.
In 1620, Date Hidemune, the first lord of the Uwajima Clan, ordered the murder of his chief retainer Yanbe Seibei and his family. The people of Uwajima secretly worshipped Seibei’s spirit to atone for the committed crime.
In 1662, the second lord of Uwajima formally dedicated a shrine to Seibei. That’s Warei Shrine.
As it’s such a huge shrine, there are many things to discover.
I especially enjoyed the various stone statues as some of them were quite hilarious.
There were a few cute stray cats on the shrine grounds as well.
Not too far away from Warei Shrine and just along the river is another very interesting shrine.
Taga Shrine and Dekoboko Shindo
Taga Shrine (多賀神社) is one of the few fertility shrines in Japan. To name just two others: Kanki Shrine in Shirahama and Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki where the yearly “Phallus Festival” (Kanamara Matsuri) is held.
The Taga Fertility Shrine is believed to provide longevity, health and cure diseases.
You’ll find various fertility symbols.
The highlight is this huge log that gets carried around during festivals.
On the shrine grounds is the Dekoboko Shindo (凸凹神堂), a huge “sex museum”.
Spread on three floors are various illustrations and items from all over the world. Unfortunately photos inside aren’t allowed.
They have a truly impressive collection. If you have some extra time when visiting Uwajima City, I highly recommend this museum. Admission is 800 yen. Opening hours are from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Uwajima Date Museum
The Date Museum contains objects and artifacts from the Date Family who ruled Uwajima City for over 250 years. The collection includes documents, samurai armor and bridal furnishings.
The entrance fee is rather expensive with 500 yen. As most museums it’s closed on Mondays. Opening hours are: 9:00-17:00. More information in Japanese can be found here.
Tenshaen – Japanese Garden
Just a few minutes away from the “Date Museum” or about 20 mins on foot from the train station is Tenshaen (天赦園) – a Japanese-style garden. The entrance fee of 300 yen is justified.
The garden was built in 1866 as a place of rest and relaxation by Munetada Date. The name “Tenshaen” means it’s a place where we’re allowed to enjoy our life.
A beautiful bridge covered with plants, so we can’t walk over it, but admire its beauty from far away.
Depending on the season, you’ll be able to enjoy different flowers and plants. Especially pretty are the wisteria (in April) and the irises (in late May / early June).
Beautifully shaped trees, bamboo, a huge pond, mountains in the background and the nice pond present a perfect landscape picture.
There’s also a tea room (Senenkan) and a calligraphy room (Harusametei).
A great place to relax and enjoy the beauty of the garden.
As I didn’t have too much time available I had to rush through the garden – which was a shame. It is big after all and if you want to fully enjoy it I recommend to calculate around 30-40 mins for a visit there.
Other sights in Uwajima City
Apart from the mentioned “main attractions”, there are a few other things you might want to explore in Uwajima City. Here’s a map of the spots that can be reached on foot including the ones I’ve introduced.
If you walk along the river that connects Warei and Taga Shrines you’ll get to some smaller temples and shrines along the way.
It’s a great opportunity for taking some scenic photos – if you have enough time!
Not too far away from the Date Museum are a few temples and shrines you might want to check out such as Kongosan Dairyuji Temple (金剛山大隆寺), Uwatsuhiko Shrine (西江禅寺) and Ryugezan Toakuji Temple (龍華山等覚寺).
The temples and shrines are a bit outside of the city center, closer to the mountains. It’s quiet and you can enjoy nature as well as typical Japanese buildings.
There’s also a rather large graveyard.
And take your time to explore all the beautiful details! :)
Most of the time you’ll be able to spot Uwajima Castle as it’s on a hill.
Uwajima Culinary Delicatessen
Uwajima is famous for Tai (sea bream), Satsuma (grilled fish served with miso and rice), Fuka-no-Yuzarashi (boiled shark meat eaten with spicy miso sauce) and Jakoten.
Jakoten (じゃこ天) is what I tried (see photo above). It is made from small fish, blended into a paste and then fried. Overall a very delicious meal.
Uwajima is a beautiful, small city with a lovely castle and some interesting temples and shrines. I stayed for 2 days and enjoyed my time there. Not too far away are other interesting spots you should check out!