Chinese sex objects displayed in Uwajima fertility museum

Taga-Jinja Temple & sex museum (49)

The fertility temple of Taga-Jinja in Uwajima.  Photo Paul Harris

Uwajima is a pretty little Japanese coastal town most concerned with fishing and the cultivation of pearls. Some of the most famous pearls in the world come from this sleepy little place which is located in the sheltered waters of an inlet on the Sea of Japan, the little town framed by mountains and trees.

But this modest little place has a surprising secret hidden away in a back street. It is home to the Taga-Jinja Sex Museum and fertility temple. Ask on the street for the location and you will likely be met with blushes. People around here are really not sure as to whether or not they are proud of this claim to fame. Although the blushes disappear once a year in the summer when the Uwajima holds its annual penis festival: vast engorged phalluses are paraded through the streets as pretty young girls lick penis-shaped ice lollies.

Taga-Jinja Temple & sex museum (45) Taga-Jinja Temple & sex museum (27)

The sex museum at Taga-Jinja, Uwajima (left) and part of the Chinese case (right)

Within the Museum, thousands of sex objects, statues, ornaments and pictures from all over Asia compete for space within crowded showcases crammed in over three floors of a relatively modern building. The overwhelming number of exhibits, hardly surprisingly, are from Japan but there are other sections devoted to China, Asia Pacific and south east Asia. They vary from the overtly humorous to the macabre and are adequately described in hand written Japanese labels (not much use, of course, if you cannot understand Japanese!

Taga-Jinja Temple & sex museum (31)Taga-Jinja Temple & sex museum (28)  Taga-Jinja Temple & sex museum (30)  Joyous union, jade phallus holder

There are many Chinese pottery and porcelain representations of sexual congress and a couple of so-called doctor’s ladies, fashioned from ivory, now generally assumed to be Taga-Jinja Temple & sex museum (26)

A so-called Chinese doctor’s lady                                  Photo Paul Harris

erotic rather than actual medical use (see our previous feature on this topic). There are also some Chinese prints depicting the sex act although they are vastly outnumbered by their more pervasive wood block-printed Japanese counterparts.

After our visit to the distinctly un-crowded museum (the only other visitors that afternoon were two girls who were greatly embarrassed to be found there!), our official Japanese guide anxiously sought our opinion. We averred it was probably one of the most interesting museums in Japan. She was evidently taken aback. ‘Really? I shall tell the mayor. We really are not sure whether or not to publicise this place!’

In order to take most advantage of this cabinet of curiosities we recommend a visit in July and you might just capture all the fevered excitement of the penis festival as local girls celebrate their adoration of the male organ. . .

penis lollipop penis nose

Japanese girls: slaves to the penis in Uwajima . . .

penis festival




Unusual Chinese art image 64 Carry that load!


French photographer Alain Delorme completed a series of photographs 2009-11 entitled Totems. He specialises in composites using Photoshop ‘to present a type of augmented reality’. The huge loads he often depicts are symbols of wealth. He compares Shanghai’s dynamic growth with the relative poverty of many of the workers in the city. Via Orientally Yours, Tumblr, photo copyright Alain Delorme.

Fashion in China: the traditional aesthetic goes international

 guo pei hk fashion wk

Very much based on a Chinese aesthetic, Guo Pei’s dramatic twist on blue and white porcelain presented at Hong Kong Fashion Week a couple of years ago.

It’s all about fashion in today’s China. New found wealth is fuelling a fashion boom in most of the larger cities of China. The luxury goods sector has always commanded the attention of Chinese shoppers, especially the younger ones. But most of those luxury goods were imported. The difference these days is that China’s own high end luxury fashion business is now powering on . . .

Recognition internationally came a couple of months ago when the Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York unveiled China: Through the Looking Glass. This exhibition paid homage to the influence of pre-Communist China’s influences on Western fashion. The vast exhibition didn’t just fill the Hall of the Costume Institute, but also all of the Museum’s Chinese art galleries. It was notable that the show came exactly 100 years after the founding of the Met’s Asian art collection in 1915.

guo-pei Top designer Guo Pei

A month earlier, in April, a new book was published, Fashion China by fashion curator Gemma Williams: an anthology of writing and illustration of the work of no less than 41 Chinese fashion designers.

The Met’s opening party was graced by stars and personalities like Rihanna, who wore a creation by Guo Pei, often regarded as China’s first significant couturiere. Chinese actress and personality Fan Bingbing was also there, as was American Vogue‘s chief editor Anna Wintour lending her approval to the emergence of Chinese fashion onto the world stage. Other significant recent events have included the opening in Shanghai of The Conde Nast Center of Fashion & Design and the Istituto Marangoni. Already a fixture on the international fashion circuit, Masha Ma has had her own label in Shanghai since 2008. She now divides her time between Shanghai and Paris where she launches her creations at Paris Fashion Week.


Traditional Chinese underwear given a modern lingerie twist. The bellyband by Dudou. Much of their underwear is fashioned in silk and hand-painted, a world away from the functional garments of the past.

chinese trad style undies Increasingly, Chinese fashion designers are becoming less ‘Chinese’ and do not feel the requirement to pay obeisance to Chinese history or culture. They are now developing their own identities and truly cosmopolitan, international designs. As Xiamen-based designer Shanguan Zhe (founder of the Sankuanz label), puts it, ‘It’s hard for me to say that my designs have just a Chinese aesthetic or just an international aesthetic.’

Shanguan Zhe of Sankuanz                                                                             Shanguan Zhe of Sankuanz

‘China Now: Young Artist Duet’ to open at RCA


What promises to be a significant exhibition opens later this month at The Gulbenkian Gallery, Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore in London. Entitled ‘China Now: Young Artist Duet’ it features the work of two exciting young artist, Zhang Kai and He Jie. The exhibition is curated by Professor Liu Zhaowu.

The exhibition opens on the evening of Friday July 17 and will run until the 27th of the month, 1100-1700 hours. The artists will be available to meet and on July 18 there will be an ‘Artist Talk’ at 2pm.

More information on Zhang Kai and examples of his work can be found at

He Jie’s biography and a critique of hs work can be found on the excellent White Rabbit website at