A month or ago, I talked to my sister – “Alex, we are going to a fertility festival in Nagoya while you are visiting Japan.”
After talking with her, I did a quick Internet search to see what I was getting myself into…
The festival itself, held March 15th of each year, is technically called “Hōnen Matsuri” or Prosperous Year Festival. It is a fertility festival. People take the fertility part to mean many things; some wish to become pregnant or to have successful pregnancies, others wish for a successful growing season and harvest.
The festival is touted as a “must see” for those happening to be in Japan on March 15.
The trip to Nagoya started by boarding a Navy Morale, Wellness & Recreation bus at 4:00 AM. Travel to Nagoya would take 4½ hours. The morning was brisk but those on the bus were warm and friendly.
Once we arrived in Nagoya, four of us – myself, Meghann, and two of her friends – ditched the tour group and headed to Shinmel Shrine where the main object was being prepared for its parade to Tagata Shrine. The main object happens to be a six hundred pound wooden phallus.
Arriving at the object, we were greeted by throngs of people; among all the people, an older Japanese man, seeing the gaijin (foreigners) and laughed, pointed at the phallus and said, “Japanese big-dick” – this trip was totally worth all the travel time and lost sleep just for that one hilarious moment.
The Japanese man motioned for one of our cameras and then pushed us through the crowd to the object where we had our photo taken.
From there, the four of us wandered through town to where food and festivities were being had; squid on a stick (take note Minnesota State Fair – Japan might have something here) was being prepared over a grill, stick dogs and sausages on sticks were also being prepared. The smells of foreign food hung heavily in the air. Children ran around sucking on candies shaped like the object. Fundamentalists would be mortified.
My sister and her friends bought chocolate cover banana-phalluses and many object suckers. The food was good and the company we kept was great.
After the object was paraded through the town and brought to Tagata Shrine, the Mochi toss began in earnest. Mochi balls are essentially pounded-rice-pucks that weigh around one pound (½kg). The toss was a craze-filled fifteen minutes where the town officials throw the mochi into the crowd below. Catching a mochi is supposed to bring good luck and fertility.
People were bloodied and bruised once the toss finished up.
If you happen to be in Nagoya on March 15 — you must roll up your sleeves and jump into the festivities that are Hōnen Matsuri.