Celebrating the penis in Japan

There are plenty of Japanese traditions and customs that are puzzling and confusing for the foreign visitor.  Honen Matsuri is definitely one of them.

Honen Matsuri Nagoya

To celebrate fertility, the festival features a huge wooden phallus, dick-shaped sweets and foods as well as endless sake.

This festival is held every year in Nagoya, which is a 6-hour drive southwest from Tokyo or ~1 hour by Shinkansen.

It was strange to see all the families (children and all) cheering on the procession of the giant penis and eating penis candy pops. I’m not used to being the modest, shy, shocked person, so this was weird.

I also stood in line to rub two marble testicles meant to represent luck in health, career and family.

Tagata Jinja shrine to the penis.
Tagata Jinja shrine to the penis.
Marble testicles for good luck at Tagata Jinja temple.
Marble testicles for good luck at Tagata Jinja temple.

At the shrine there I rang a penis-shaped bell, which i think is to call upon the spirits and grant your wish.

Tagata Jinja Nagoya Tagata Jinja Nagoya
My friends and I ate all kinds of traditional Japanese street foods. Some were even made to purposely resemble the phallus we were all there to celebrate. Hotdogs and chocolate-covered bananas were fashioned to look like penises (peni?).

Penis sweets nagoya penis dogs Nagoya Penis dogs nagoya penis dogs nagoya

Nice juxtaposition here with the Hello Kitty. Drawing kids and adults in with different techniques here.
Nice juxtaposition here with the Hello Kitty. Drawing kids in with the cartoons and adults in with the banana wangs.

There were even fertility amulets for sale at the temple.

Fertility amulet and cellphone charms for sale at Tagata Jinja temple.
Fertility amulet and cellphone charms for sale at Tagata Jinja temple.

My feminism was a little appalled at spending the entire day worshipping the phallus statuettes, but to think that this was merely a “dick festival” is an incorrect assumption. According to our tour guide, the wooden dick travels to the temple which is home to the goddess of fertility. So, the statue (or whatever you’d officially call it) literally penetrates the temple in the name of fertility!

Watch video below for more pics and the … uh… penetration… lulz…


P.S. And just in case you’re in Japan on April 5th, Kawasaki also hosts their own fest. Based on the photos on Huffpost from last year’s festivities, I think this one is slightly more foreigner-friendly and way more into the D.

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