Videos of the Hounen Matsuri: An amazing fertility festival
Ah, YouTube! Thou hast almost any video clip imaginable, including some of one of my favorite Japanese festivals, the Hounen Matsuri! Before showing you the videos, here is some background of the festival [from Wikipedia]:
Hounen Matsuri (Japanese for Harvest Festival) is a fertility festival celebrated every year on March 15 in Japan. The most well-known of these festivals takes place in the town of Komaki, just north of Nagoya City. Ho-nen means rich harvest in Japanese, while a matsuri is a festival or holiday. The Ho-nen 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 (96 inch)-long wooden phallus. The wooden phallus is carried from a shrine called Shinmei Sha on a large hill, to another shrine called Tagata Jinja.
The festival starts with celebration and preparation at 10am at Tagata Jinja, where all sorts of foods and souvenirs (mostly phallus-shaped or related) are sold. Sake is also passed out freely from large wooden barrels. At about 2pm everyone gathers at Shinmei Sha for the start of the procession. Shinto priests say prayers and make blessings on the participants and mikoshi which are to be carried along the parade route, as well as the large wooden phallus.
When the procession makes its way down to Tagata Jinja the phallus in its mikoshi is spun furiously before it is set down and more prayers are said. Everyone then gathers in the square outside Tagata Jinja and wait for the mochi nage, at which time the crowd is showered with small rice cakes which are thrown down by the officiates from raised platforms. The festival concludes at about 4:30pm.
If you want to see the videos, click the read more link, because there will be a lot of not-quite-work-safe footage of a giant wooden wee-wee…..
The “guest of honor” for this matsuri:
Some older guys carry one of the lesser phallic objects:
Participants rotate the festival’s main wooden phallus:
A 45 second video summarizing the festival, with music! [via Zaeega]
When I was there, about 1/4 of the spectators were foreigners. Here’s a woman interviewing a foreigner a the festival, who says he found out about it through the magic of google:
If you haven’t been to the festival before, I suggest you clear up your schedule for March 15th this year and travel out to Aichi prefecture! The all-you-can drink sake is a blast, and there are plenty of phallic candies and souvenirs for sale that you can purchase as X-mas presents for your folks!
[This article was submitted as an entry to the first-ever Japan Blog Matsuri! ]