Hounen Matsuri

Trip Start Jul 28, 2007
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Trip End Aug 30, 2008


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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sebastian's family and friend Matt arrive for a big 2-week visit to Japan! Should be a really good trip! Specially seeing as it starts off with a visit to a fertility matsuri in Komaki, north of Nagoya! Nothing like checking out a fertility festival with the family! (It was the only one Sebastian could find that was taking place during their visit!)

After a 2.5hr train ride and a short walk, we arrive at one of two major shrines in the town. During Hounen Matsuri, a giant newly-carved wooden phallus (about 2m) is paraded, along with a few other flashy articles, from one shrine to the other, over a 2 hour period. And lo and behold, there it is, resting until the big march. We take a few photos, and then grab some lunch in preparation for the parade.

When we leave the restaurant, just before 2pm, we soon realize that the streets have become packed with people, and a surprising number of gaijin! This is apparently the biggest fertility matsuri in Japan, so perhaps it's not too surprising. Before we know it, a few portable shrines are coming along the line of people, soon followed by the "big one". It took a good dozen guys to lift that thing, and every now and then they would toss it and turn it around, to cheers from the crowds. Sake and dried fish were served to the crowds throughout the parade, which lead up to the second major shrine, Tagata Jinja, where last year's phallus was on display, and matsuri food was in abundance. There we could enjoy matsuri music and more sake!

Once the procession had finished, we noticed crowds eargerly gathering around a couple long adjacent scaffolds, and so we, following in ignorant anticipation, did the same! Eventually some loud speakers confirmed to us the events that would proceed, and warned that children and elderly people should leave the area, as people would soon be bombarded with giant rock-hard rice cakes. Awesome! About 10 more of the same announcements later, the bombing began, and Japanese people everywhere became more violent than we'd ever seen them (still not that violent...), as they fought to catch the rice cakes! Sebastian managed to catch one, a mixed victory, seeing as he wasn't quite sure what to do with it, or why they were in such high demand...it didn't actually seem edible, but surely he will be lucky!

Thousands of flying rice cakes later, the matsuri was drawn to a close, and masses of people (us included) made their way to the metro. After catching a train in the wrong direction, we soon corrected ourselves, and were on our way home!
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