Hounen Matsuri: Tagata Jinja

Thought to be benefical by by many Japanese and obscene by many Westerners, Hounen Matsuri is held on March 15th every year in the small town of Komaki, which is just outside of Nagoya.
The word "hounen" means "a rich harvest". The festival and ceremony celebrate the blessings of a bountiful harvest and all manner of prosperity and fertility. The festival's main features of interest are shinto priests playing musical instruments, a parade of ceremonially-garbed participants, all-you-can-drink sake, and a 280 kg (620 pound), 2.5 meter (8 feet)-long wooden phallus.

For those of you who'd like the Cliff-notes for this festival,
check out the journal entry I wrote about it here!

The ceremony begins at Tagata Jinja with some preparations and drinking of sake. Based on the discovery of an ancient sword and other artifacts, Tagata Shrine is thought to be over 1,500 years old. There are a number of interesting items around the shrine, stone and woodcarvings, manmade or naturally occuring that, of course, are all of the phallus-shape.

A stack of sake barrels. They are
usually donated by local companies.
When needed, they are opened with
a large wooden mallet.

Pre-Show Activities

There are a lot of other things to do before the main event other than drinking sake! Oh yes! You can get a lovely picture taken with one of the attractive phallus shapes near Tagata Shrine or rub the magic balls and make a wish like the high school girl below is doing!

Of course, the main attraction of Tagata Shrine is "the big one". Every year a new phallus is carved from a single cedar tree trunk. In the middle of winter, a tree is cut down and brought to the shrine for purification. Then a master craftsman using traditional tools and wearing ritually-purified clothing slowly carves the tree trunk to be a giant phallus that will be featured in the parade that year. After that year's Hounen Matsuri is finished, the giant phallus is stored here. It is important to remember that people do not actually worship the giant phallus. It is an offering to the gods and is revered as such. Inside, are also smaller carved phalli given to the shrine by couples or women in thanks for supposed blessings granted. These objects are also occasionally loaned out to people who request a blessing from the shrine.



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