Wednesday 31 May Uwajima – Doi Pearl Farm and Dairaku-ji Temple

Today we arrived in the pearl cultivation centre of Uwajima, situated in Uwajima Bay in Shikoku Island. The small city is home to one of only twelve surviving original castles from the Edo Period (1603-1867). Being a coastal city, Uwajima’s industries are related to the sea, such as fishing and pearl cultivating. It is one of the top pearl producers in Japan.
When we disembarked the ship there were several locals there playing the drums and dressed in costumes to welcome us and fight off the evil spirits. Sandy was asked to join in beating one of the big drums, which she was happy to do and then some others came to join her – lots of fun!
Our bus took us up into the mountains and then to the west side of Shikoku Island along the waterfront, with great scenery to the Doi Pearl Farm, one of the oldest companies in the region, which ahs been here for many generations.
We met the owner of the Doi Pearl Farm, Kazunori Doi and during our visit to the pearl farm he told us about, and showed us the process of implanting, harvesting, extracting and sorting these precious pearls. We were very interested to learn that the oysters are prepared for 2 years before they are implanted with a nucleus – after this “operation” they are put into a post-surgery recuperation for a month and then they are transferred to the “farm” outside the bay, which has abundant nutrition for them. The harvest is carried out during the winter about 18 months after the process started, so that means 3½ years from the beginning.
We watched one of the implanters as he implanted several oysters – a fine precision process. We were then taken outside and watched as Kazunori’s father extracted the pearls from the oysters, while our local guide, Mitsu interpreted for us. We were then taken upstairs to the showroom to see some of their exquisite pearl jewellery and were given the opportunity to purchase some at a discounted price as well as tax-free. Kazunori, his father and the other staff members all came out to wave goodbye to us.
Our next stop was at the historic Buddhist Temple, Dairaku-ji Temple, which is also known as “Flying Squirrel Temple”. We climbed up the steps and were met by the Monk, who welcomed us and told us, via Mitsu as interpreter, that the Flying Squirrels live in the roof of the Temple Gate and in the evening they “fly” down and climb up the 400 year old Gingko Tree. The Monk invited us into the Main Temple, so we took our shoes off and sat inside the temple. The Monk had a huge, modern professional camera around his neck and there was a huge HD television on the wall, which he used to show us the Flying Squirrels and to explain to us that his father was an inventor and made his own car and bike, as well as many other inventions, including a water-powered turntable for records, a washing machine etc. He showed us a video of some baby Flying Squirrels that were born in the house part of the temple and then invited us to see his Camera Collection of over 650 cameras dating back many years as well as some fairly modern ones. We were taken into a big room with cushions around low tables and a few stools scattered around the room and we were served some home-made sweets and green matcha tea. We had a great view of the Monk’s beautiful Japanese Garden that he had planted, including 200 cherry trees and azalea bushes. The Monk gave each of us a gift of an envelope with three photos that he had taken: the steps leading to the Temple Gate, the Flying Squirrels leaping off the Gate Roof to the Gingko Tree and his lovely Japanese Garden. We thanked him with much bowing and said our farewells after a wonderful visit to this very different Monk’s home/temple.
We drove back to the port area and called in to the Kisaiya Square, which is a market place that sells local products such as fruit & vegetables, fresh seafood, Royce chocolate and souvenirs.
We arrived back at the ship at about 1.20pm and were greeted once again by the dressed up figures, who handed us a little origami kimono as we got off the bus and said goodbye to us. By this time it had started to rain, but we still ate our lunch on the Lido Deck (under cover) and enjoyed the view of this lovely coastal town.
We had the option of going back into the town if we wished in a shuttle bus provided by the port authority, but as it was raining all afternoon, we chose to have a quiet afternoon onboard, relaxing.
We had afternoon tea and then joined some of the others for a sail-away party (in the lounge as it was raining), before a port talk and then dinner in the dining room. We finished dinner at about 9.30pm and came back to finish writing up our blog.


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