Size does matter

Trip Start Mar 11, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2006

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Flag of Japan  ,
Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Local festivals can be some of the neatest things to catch while traveling: the locals are happy, there is loads of stuff to do, and you get a chance to celebrate something you probably don't otherwise give a whole lot of thought to (I'm looking at you, Gilroy Garlic Festival). The one we caught on the Ides of March at Tagata jingi (shrine) wasn't actually based around a particularly obscure topic, but certainly one you've never seen glorified in as exacting detail. I'll also give a half-joking warning here that, despite there being lots of kids there, the photo album for this entry is not intended for those under 18 years of age, you'll see why ;)
The Hounen Matsuri festival every spring celebrates fertility in a big way. The centerpiece is a 3-4 meter, 700 pound phallus carved out of a tree trunk. It's marched around town on a litter hefted by about a dozen guys singing and, most noticeably, drinking, and ends up at the temple doors where a short ceremony is held before it is thrust in for the year. Along the parade route there are also smaller members, mostly carried by women also in ceremonial garb who encourage you to rub and pet their pieces for good luck, which you are of course you think is much more hilarious once the sake tree comes around a few times. It's all a great community event and you see a great mix of tourists and locals, from teenagers having a laugh to old men toting jars of supermarket sake.
Ryan and I left Tokyo the morning of the event, with Kazuo again being a hero by dropping us at the station we needed. Passing Mt. Fuji on the way which, even from the train is breathtaking and perfect, we arrived in Komaki just as the party was getting started. Finally convincing through gestures and smiles the good folks at 2+3 Hair Make to let us stash our stuff behind their counter (Bronco Billy's Steakhouse wasn't taking), we wandered into a cacophony of festival food, colorful costumes, and knick-knacks, all glorifying the appendage that half of us hold so dear. After- also for good luck- rubbing the twin testes shrine and marching with the parade (led by the tall man in the devil mask before the weighty willy to ward off evil spirits), we all gathered in the square to try our hand at the mochi toss.
Up above and around us on perpendicular raised balconies were a few dozen festival officials with heaps and heaps of rice cakes at their feet. I had heard that this was the most dangerous part of the festival, but couldn't understand why until I saw what was before them. These weren't your grandfather's mochi (unless your grandfather is from Komaki), there bad boys were rice pounded into discs the size and shape of a large half grapefruit, hard as a hockey puck, but several times as heavy. The announcer would call off rounds of 30 seconds to 1 minute where they would hurl the beasts into the crowd, a dozen in the air at once, again and again. The object for the crowd is to catch one because it ensures conception success. So prized are there that Ryan was asked to trade one of his afterwards for a branch of the sake tree. Ryan caught 3 and I got hit in the chest with one and later found it on the ground, I do wonder what that means.
Grabbing our bags back and dispersing with the crowd, we only had left to be sad/somewhat relieved that we would be missing the festival's female counterpart several weeks later.

Moral of the story: It's actually super difficult to think of a half-dozen non-offensive euphemisms to be able to write this post with.
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