March 18, 2007

Japanese PENIS festival Part 2

Tagata Shrine

An elderly lady touching the wooden phallus after making a prayer

Wish boards with wishes written

Hounen Matsuri (Japanese penis festival) is deeply rooted in Japanese folklore. It began as an appeal to the gods for a fruitful harvest. March 15th marks the beginning of spring, a time of rebirth and growth.

On this day, locals dressed in Buddhist robes carry floats through the centre of town praying for a good harvest and childbirth. The main float consists of a two and a half metre wooden phallus, which is carried from one shrine to another. In the Shinto belief, newly made objects flow with life, thus a new phallus is carved every year from a Japanese cypress tree. It is a gift to the female deity of agricultural fertility, Tamahime-no-mikoyo. The float is carried by men all aged 42. This age is considered unlucky for men, a superstition rooted in Chinese culture. Carrying the gift to the agricultural deity is believed to consecrate the men of that hapless age.

For souvenirs, visitors can get cup that resembles a penis

Bell in front of the temple with an unique design


The parade begins at 2pm, led by a Shinto priest who purifies the path to the shrine with salt. This is also done to ward off evil spirits. Men follow carrying banners depicting the anatomical rudiments of fertility. Local dignitaries dressed in golden sashes once worn by Buddhist priests follow the banners.

Parades with wooden phallus carried by female devotees

Large wooden phallus


Touching the phalus

Visitors are encouraged to take part in the festival and this can be done by drinking free sake, following the parade or by touching one of several small wooden phalli in the hope for healthy babies.

Rice cake throw

To round the day off there is a Mochi Nage, or rice-cake throw, which - like the entire festival - has to be seen to be believed. Behind the shrine a square crams with people waiting to catch flying balls of tasteless glutinous rice. Catching a ball of mochi guarantees good luck and prosperity for the coming year. It is also the closest the Japanese and their visitors come to taking part in a full-scale riot without arrest.

Visitors are hoping to get mochi that are thrown to them

Local people throw the homemade mochi into the crowd from their roofs. Fighting for a cake alongside the elderly is not uncommon. A must see if not a must do.

How to get there

Komaki is both easy and cheap to get to from Nagoya. From Shin Nagoya station (beside JR Nagoya station) take the Meitestu Inuyama line to Inuyama station (30 minutes). At Inuyama station, change to the Komaki line (platform 3) and catch any train south. Tagata Jingu Mae is the third station. Come out of the station and walk south (left) down the main road. On March 15th, however, it will just be a matter of following the crowd.

**For more photos, check out my flickr photo set

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Bryan said...

Wah lau, I guess everyone there must be talking cock :D

Amel Hanan said...

I am speechless...

Such a strange festival! Yet, it seems very interesting as no one gives a hoot about such things.

Ah, I am gaining another point of knowledge of foreign cultures now.