March 15, 2001
now I'm feeling: Good!
now I'm listening to: Utada Hikaru
Hikaru -- Drama
got a new album out and it's pretty darn good. "Drama"
is kindof a departure from her usual R&B forte,
but it's really good.
with "The Big One"
Crazy Mochi Nage
is a reason why some people list this festival as one of the
top five things to see before they die. It is, perhaps, the
single, most insane gathering of human beings and phallus
paraphernalia on the face of the planet.
main feature of this festival, aside from the river of drunken
Japanese men and women that flood the streets of the small
town of Komaki, is a 2+ meter long wooden phallus which is
carried on the shoulders of shockingly drunken 42-year-old
Japanese men. Wait.. before I get too bogged down with descriptions,
I should start when we arrived at the infamous town.
arrived in the small town of Komaki around 11 am. We immediately
made a beeline for Tagata Jijya, or more commonly referred
to by ignorant, disrespectful foreigners as "The Vagina
Shrine" or "the place with all the dicks".
discovered that the shrine, in fact, did carry a large variety
of objects of the phallus shape.. both naturally occurring
and man-made. Surrounding the shrine were men and women in
traditional costume preparing for the big festival.
were some rather bad demonstrations of the katana sword, many
women in kimono posing for pictures, and many priests praying
in front of (or to?) a large phallus, chanting and bowing.
Oh, yes. And of course there were a number of hand-pushed
carts with barrels of open sake being distributed in little
paper cups to the mass of people gathered there. Oh didn't
I mention that before? Then I probably didn't mention that
quite a number of elderly Japanese men were already stone-drunk.
They reeked of alcohol and approached us speaking broken Japanese
or more broken English. Each cart had a foot-long wooden phallus
attached to the front of it, which was occasionally patted
or stroked by a passing woman for good luck.
a building adjacent the shrine rested last year's gigantic
phallus in all its polished glory. Surrounding the giant phallus
on shelves were a multitude of smaller phalluses which were
donated to tagata jinja by women or couples in thanks for
the supposed blessings the shrine and the phallus had conveyed
to them over the years.
enormous baskets of mochi (rice cakes) were placed on platforms
above the square in front of the shrine, set and prepared
for the pandemonium which was to ensue at the outset of the
festival (I'll talk more about this later).
a plethora of festival stalls sold Japanese and Western foods
as well as any sort of phallus item you could ever desire.
Phallus key chains, phallus candies and suckers, frozen bananas,
phallus manjyu (soft, bean-paste-filled cakes), and large,
carved wooden phalluses to proudly display on your mantel
was amazing. It was Japan.
feasted on a juicy hot dog and bought phallus candies and
suckers for some friends back home and a key chain for myself.
When the time came, the masses walked up the hill to another
small shrine, commonly referred to by ignorant, disrespectful
foreigners as "The Penis Shrine". There in all its
splendor and glory, rested this year's big, wooden penis in
a palanquin. Hundreds of people posed for pictures with it.
Some patted, stroked and even kissed it.
some blessings by Shinto priests, the procession was ready
to roll with dancers, traditionally garbed women carrying
two-foot long phalluses, and lots and lots of sake. The procession
had some really interesting characters.
the center of the parade, the big, wooden penis was carried.
These 42-year-old men were very, very drunk. They swayed and
stumbled under the weight of the big, wooden penis and occasionally
drifted dangerously close to the crowds of people gathered
along the parade route. Music was played, people danced, and
sake was drunk as the big, wooden penis made its way to Tagata
Jinja. Shinto priests struck gongs, chanted, and threw salt
at the crowd. It was truly a sight to behold.
followed the procession to Tagata Jinja and when the big,
wooden penis was brought to the front of the shrine it spun
furiously in circles and finally rested before the entrance.
Priests said more prayers. The ceremonies were completed and
it was time for the final stage of Honen Matsuri, the Mochi
a Mochi Nage (or rice-cake throw) is the closest a
group of Japanese people can get to inciting a full-scale
riot without being arrested by the police. It is a curious
Shinto practice where elderly people, who I see so often with
backs bent pedaling their bicycles as if each cycle of the
wheel would be their last, receive the amazing burst of stamina
and strength to throw aside their children, friends and countrymen,
for the chance at catching or scooping off the ground a tasteless,
palm-sized rice cake. To say it was dangerous would be an
understatement. Before the nage began, a person came on the
loudspeaker and repeatedly asked that all children, elderly,
and women leave the square. After it began, the shouting,
pushing, and begging began and my friends and I were pushed
back and forth and even down on the pavement. One of my friends
was trampled (he was all right, 'cept for a sore leg). It
was crazy. It was chaos.
the aftermath of the nage, there was much proud mochi
displaying and more shopping for phallus treats. Battered
and beaten as we were, we headed for the train station.
you're ever around Nagoya on March 15, be sure and stop by
the little town of Komaki for the festival. Try the sake,
stay for the parade, steer clear of the nage. You'll