Although Japan has its fair share of seedy districts, sex museums and even Penis festivals, oddly enough the first place I ended up exploring was not in the Land of the Rising Run at all. Not too far off the coast of Kyushu, about halfway towards the Korean mainland is a small island called Jeju. Hidden inside is one of the world’s best kept secrets.
As should be blatantly obvious by now, this post isn’t for prudish types. Regular readers will know that I like to push the boundaries from time to time, and today is no exception. Just as the human body needs sustenance and sleep, it also demands sex. It’s a basic biological drive – no use ignoring it now! That said, society dictates we moderate our exposure to such animalistic behaviour, so this is your last warning. If you consider the image below even remotely offensive, begone (and come back after work). For everyone else, well, let’s get stuck in! Cue tittering and embarrassed pointing.
Where were we? Oh yes, off the coast of Korea. Jeju island (also known as Cheju) is well known for its Samda Sammu – 3 of the plenty and 3 of the few. The plenty? Lots of rocks, wind and women! Three of the few? A lack of thieves, beggars and gates. Nestled somewhere in the northern part of the island is a small museum dedicated to sex.
Since the end of the Korean war the island has been a fairly popular tourist destination for honeymooning couples, who come to spread out on its many beaches and explore underground in the ancient lava tubes, a World Heritage Site. Due to its influx of newlyweds, it also became something of a classroom for sex-ed, encouraging new couples to explore themselves and their partner. Love Land, the harmless name for the attraction, apparently opened in 2004 and has been feasting the eyes ever since.
The park itself may be something of a haven for the liberals among us, but that isn’t to say that such a relaxed attitude spreads freely across the rest of South Korea, Japan or Asia. In most open places things are kept carefully concealed, or at least out of view of the general public eye. But while here one can enjoy wandering around the spacious sculpture park admiring the many creative expressions of human sexuality. And some of the rather frightening ones…
Sculptures are twisted into all sorts of impossible positions, with body parts bulging that never should and vibrant colours painted on to emphasise the posture. It makes the Karma Sutra look tame at times…
Getting over the initial excitement, we continue to walk. A giant stone labia appears in front of us, hills shaped like breasts to our left and a pronged phallus bench that really makes the imagination wonder. Suppose somebody – accidentally of course – actually misjudged where they placed their behind when sitting down… It boggles the mind to think about it.
Strange contraptions are also littered around the park, decoratively illuminated. Painstaking detail has been taken in every aspect of the park and it’s full of quirky little surprises around every corner. Even the heavy rain and stormy February skies didn’t detract from the experience, although I was rather disappointed not to see any adventurous souls giving the old bicycle a try. If only the seat weren’t wet!
Food was never far away, but that too had been given the love and attention it deserved. Finding squid-related snacks didn’t surprise me after having lived in Japan for several years, but look a little closer there now… Is it just a squid..?
Equally intriguing were the green-ringed signs haphazardly placed in various locations. Clearly the newlyweds would not be leaving here unscathed – a traditional depiction of sex seemed to be the last thing on the designer’s mind.
A dome-shaped building appeared ahead, so after walking underneath a large pair of promiscuous white legs and skipping around a gushing depiction of the Greek God Poseidon and his lover, we went inside.
I was wondering what we might expect inside the gift shop of such a salacious park, and we weren’t disappointed. For the art lovers, there were expensive, carved wooden pieces of intriguing design and proportion. Curious candles for the ladies and of course mobile phone straps for the kids. Er… young adults. And for the more serious sexual connoisseur, there were of course a range of garden variety toys for sale. Some of them really could have been found in the back yard!
The whole experience would not have been complete without a classic from the sex industry – a peephole for all the Toms out there. But rather more than the hardcore shock of seeing what was inside, glimpsing another person doing the same thing from the other side of the box was far more surprising!
Also up for viewing was a delightful range of models showing various scenes. One of my favourites was the potter and his student sculpting…well… And another was this amusing shot from inside a bathhouse.
Back outside, the sky had grown black, but the park still plentiful with young couples and giggling groups of grannies in raincoats. The sculpture park is open for viewing in the evening, and I must say that the illuminations really wrapped up the visit. It felt just that little bit more special – catching the contours of people’s faces smiling bashing in the shadows and following the dynamic lines of the sculptures as they danced between light and dark.
It’s not often one gets to wander so contently and revel in a human experience so freely. Let loose from the restrictions of modern society, for just a short time you can gasp, blush or just plain guffaw at how ludicrous the human body is and how bizarre the whole copulation thing really is. I’d highly recommend a visit if you’re passing through Asia, even if you’re a little embarrassed. No, especially if you’re embarrassed :).