Japanese Festivals: Honen Matsuri (the Penis Festival)

Japanese Festivals: Honen Matsuri (the Penis Festival)

I’ve mentioned before how much I loooove visiting Japanese festivals. If you’re interested there are other posts about traditional festivals in Nara here. The Hounen Matsuri (豊年祭) or Penis festival, in Aichi, is one of the most fun events I ever attended in Japan. It was such a giggle! It is actually a fertility festival, so it’s not about worshipping willies. And it is held on the 15th of March every year. We attended back in 2008, when the event landed on a Saturday, so it was even bigger (thats what she said) than normal.

Hounen Matsuri means festival for a prosperous year… so it is meant to be like a harvest festival BUT if you try to find information about it in English, you’ll have more luck googling Penis Festival.

Now, I am not sure how to explain this hilarity with out lots of words and LOADS of photos, so grab a cuppa, this will probably be a long, penis-filled post!

So, this Penis festival takes place at Tagata Jinja shrine, in Aichi Prefecture which is just north of Nagoya. It is a day of sake drinking, genital-shaped foods and parades. The highlight is when people line the streets to carry a giant (and I mean GIANT) phallus through the town. It’s a fertility festival so it is celebrating life, possible future babies and giggles – so it’s fun for all the family. I have a feeling if we had a similar festival in the UK people would be too shocked by the sight of a massive phallus, so parents might not allow their kids to come along. I love that this was so open!

Introducing the phallus:
A new giant, wooden phallus is carved every year because newly-made objects are considered to have more purity and vitality. At the end of the event the willy is auctioned off. I love the idea that there are so many of these beautifully carved phalli dotted around the countryside in Aichi. I mean, if you owned a large wooden willy, what would you do with it!? It might make a good bench!?
We arrived quite early in the morning to see the phallus before there were too many people surrounding it with cameras. As well as the main wooden penis, there were also small mikoshi shrines holding statues of a prince and a princess, as well as quite a few smaller phalli, ready for their parade.
Introducing the shrine:
Tagata Jinja Shrine a place for couples to visit when they are hoping to have a child. There are plenty of ancient willies carved in stone or wood, but you can also spot the wishes from couples hoping to have babies soon. It is actually really sweet.
The shrine is where the parade will finish later in the day, but even early in the morning, there was plenty to see. The best part was probably the entertainment and food stalls.
Penis festival entertainment:
In addition to the parade that starts about 2pm, there is a whole morning of entertainment. We stopped to watch some fantastic taiko drummers as well as some traditional koto musicians.

Plus, if you need to do some shopping, this is the place! There were willy ash trays, plates, cups etc. In Japan, if you go on holiday, you should always buy some omiyage (gifts) to bring back to your friends or co-workers. The penis festival had the best willy-shaped omiyage! I bought some penis lollies for friends, but I was slightly too shy to take them back to my office. For colleagues, I found some mushroom shaped sweets. 😉

What to eat at a Penis festival:
Firstly, you need to eat a chocolate banana! There were quite a few giggles when we bought our bananas. We even had some school boys come over and ask us to take a photo with us all eating bananas. I was slightly sad that I’d already bought mine before I saw hello kitty bananas on a different stand! Next time I’d go for a hello kitty phallic snack.

Then, if you fancy something savoury, the hot dogs are a little bit special! They split the top of each sausage before they cook them, so they puff out, and look more phallic. But, that isn’t enough, so they also add pancake foreskins! Then (of course) you can add mayonnaise before you eat it.

Even the potatoes were long and almost phallus-shaped. I found really tasty, non-willy-shaped strawberries as well. So you *can* eat non-willy shaped items if you wish.

The Parade!
The best part of the afternoon is the parade of the mikoshi shrines and the main phallus. People lined the streets in anticipation and the atmosphere was fantastic!

The first part of the parade was a MASSIVE tub of sake! You can tell when the sake is getting close because there is a sake tree! As the tree moves slowly along the path, they give out cups of sake to everyone and anyone that would like some. Well, as long as they look over 20! Everyone seemed really happy that my friends and I like sake, so we were given several tastes.

This means that everyone is slightly tipsy, and even more ready to see the upcoming phallus!

But, before the phallus comes past, you get to see a priest dressed up as Tengu. Just look at the flag behind him! The shunga-style painting really shows off some veins!

Tengu-dude’s shoes were pretty epic too! There are also a whole load of procession maidens that walk in front of the main phallus carrying wooden willies of their own. They were all really friendly and held out the their willies for people to touch for luck. If you want to conceive, you need to get their attention and have a touch.

Up next was another group of priests and the portable mikoshi shrines that held the statues of the prince and princess that I showed above.

And then, it was time for the main event! The MASSIVE wood! Everyone cheers as the phallus goes past. It is really fun to see because everyone is having such a giggle! The only problem was it was so busy, with so many people, that it can be hard to take photos. I think it looks like there is a smiley face on the back of the wooden shaft. Can you see it?

Even though it is a very heavy wooden carving, they don’t just walk along the path between the two shrines. Every so often, the phallus-carriers stop and spin the willy, while everyone cheers!

Even after the main phallus has gone past, there was more! The parade keep going with plenty more phalli for everyone to touch. We noticed that we were offered the wood A LOT! It seemed like the Japanese folks around us thought it was hilarious that smiley western women were getting involved in the fun. So, they kept calling people over to offer more willies to us.

At one point, one of the larger willies was stopped in front of us, so we all gave it a kiss for the cameras. So, so, sooo many cameras stopped to take photos at this moment. It was surreal and hilarious!

After that we moved back in the crowd to give other people a better view. There was another sake tree that came past to keep everyone well lubricated and having a laugh! We took a short cut to wander over to Tagata Jinja Shrine, and arrived just in time for more sake! 😀

The festival finished with a mochi-throwing ceremony. Like the previous festival I wrote about, the old ladies were the best at grabbing mochi from the air! It’s amazing to see them in action!

So, that is the Hounen Matsuri – Penis Festival. It was a complete giggle, and if you are ever in Japan in March you should definitely get involved!! I’ll leave you with a picture of some of the omiage I bought to friends that couldn’t join us. I bought a selection of willies, vaginas and mushrooms.

What do you think? Would you like to go!?

 

13 thoughts on “Japanese Festivals: Honen Matsuri (the Penis Festival)

  1. Well I’ve never heard of this before! I feel I’ve lead a rather sheltered life! Bet it was a right hoot 🙂
    Do the japeneae take it quite seriously or is it a bit of laugh for them too?

  2. OMG, JOSY! I am so glad you wrote this; I was either smiling or giggling the entire time I was reading. This festival is definitely going on my bucket list; if you ever go again, I am tagging a long! There are so many things I loved about this post: the chocolate covered peni– I mean bananas, kissing the willies, the parade, everything! Ha! Do I sound like a total weirdo?! (Eh, I don’t really care. It sounds like so much fun!)

    1. Don’t worry! I’m a bit of a weirdo as well because I LOVED everything about it. <3

      I was thinking if I really do want to get preggers next year, maybe I should persuade my husband to go to Japan and visit a penis festival. But we have so many weddings to travel to in the next year, I doubt we'll be able to afford it.

    1. Just that one day…but we stayed ALL DAY!

      We were living in Nara, so it wasn’t too far to get a bus up early in the morning, and then another back that evening. 😀

  3. I’m not going to lie, I have a terrible cause of the giggles now!! I firmly (pun… not intended but still hilarious) believe that life is all about finding the fun and the funny, and given how stressful conceiving can be for some people, I love that this is an entirely goofy way to go about it 🙂 Also, I’m just super impressed with the dedication to these carvings….

    1. They are pretty impressive aren’t they! I think that it is cool that it’s a fun event for the whole family, and not too serious. Although there must people who really want to conceive that attend too. I really hope it helps them! <3

    1. Don’t worry! We giggled the whole way through the event. Even the old men were in giggles – it is just that sort of day!

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