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Hōnen Matsuri


Hōnen Matsuri (豊年祭 Harvest Festival?) is a fertility festival celebrated every year on March 15 in Japan. Hōnen means prosperous year in Japanese, implying a rich harvest, while a matsuri is a festival. The Hōnen festival and ceremony celebrate the blessings of a bountiful harvest and all manner of prosperity and fertility.

The best known of these festivals takes place in the town of Komaki, just north of Nagoya City. The festival’s main features are Shinto priests playing musical instruments, a parade of ceremonially garbed participants, all-you-can-drink sake, and a 280 kg (620 pound), 2.5 meter (96 inch)-long wooden phallus. The wooden phallus is carried from a shrine called Shinmei Sha (in even-numbered years) on a large hill or from Kumano-sha Shrine (in odd-numbered years), to a shrine called Tagata Jinja.

The festival starts with celebration and preparation at 10:00 a.m. at Tagata Jinja, where all sorts of foods and souvenirs (mostly phallus-shaped or related) are sold. Sake is also passed out freely from large wooden barrels. At about 2:00 p.m. everyone gathers at Shinmei Sha for the start of the procession. Shinto priests say prayers and impart blessings on the participants and mikoshi, as well as on the large wooden phallus, which are to be carried along the parade route.

When the procession makes its way down to Tagata Jinja the phallus in its mikoshi is spun furiously before it is set down and more prayers are said. Everyone then gathers in the square outside Tagata Jinja and waits for the mochi nage, at which time the crowd is showered with small rice cakes which are thrown down by the officials from raised platforms. The festival concludes at about 4:30 p.m.

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