IYO, Ehime -- Love is dangerous, or at least padlocks affixed to an expressway service area fence here as symbols of couples' undying affection are, according to the recently announced removal of the "heart-lock fence."
The local office of West Nippon Expressway Co. (Nexco West), which operates the Iyonada service area on the Matsuyama Expressway in the southwestern prefecture of Ehime, stated that the fence would be taken down on or after March 1. Nexco West's Ehime office judged that the fence, weighed down by thousands of locks that have been attached to it over the past 10-plus years, had become a safety hazard.
The service area is located on high ground granting fantastic vistas and great sunset views, and in 2008 the nonprofit Area Activation Supporting Center (AASC) chose to name it a "koibito no seichi," or "sacred spot for lovers" perfect for popping the question. It was the first such romantic "sacred spot" to be recognized in Japan's expressway system.
According to the local Nexco West office, the locks began appearing more than 10 years ago on the fence erected at the service area's lookout point, but a lock monument was erected and the barrier lengthened to about 10 meters after the AASC designation. However, in the decade since, the fence has become badly weathered and is in danger of collapse.
Some of the locks are inscribed with romantic promises and desires, such as, "In hopes that this love will last forever."
"The fence bears the weight of years of love, and can't hold up anymore, but it still carries so many different hopes and feelings," said an official in charge.
The locks will be preserved after the fence is removed, and returned to any original owners who want them back.
(Japanese original by Ryoko Kijima, Matsuyama Bureau)