Hounen Matsuri 7/7
Program on March 15, 1998
The procession started at a small shrine called Shinmei Sha and ended at the Tagata Shrine. The red arrows on the map indicate the route of the procession.
Map with Tagata Shrine and route of procession
The event started at 10:00 in the morning and ended sometimes after 16:00 in the afternoon. Many people arrived between 13:00 and 14:00 when the main procession started.
- The big phallus and other objects are arranged at Shinmei Sha.
- The men who will paricipante in the procession start at the Nokyo Center, walk towards Tagata Shrine, and arrive there shortly before 11:00. All men are 42 years old and are called Yaku Otoko (厄男), which means vulnearable men.
- A Shinto priest prays for a good fortune of the Yaku Otoko at Tagata Shrine.
- The Yaku Otoko and other participants line up for the procession at Shinmei Sha.
- The procession starts at Shinmei Sha and moves slowly towards Tagata Shrine. This is the main event.
- Priests pray for a fruitful year at Tagata Shrine.
- The procession arrives at Tagata Shrine.
- 16:00: "Mochi Nage"
- Rice cakes are thrown out to the crowd in front of Tagata Shrine.
Rain soaked the Tagata Hounen Festival in 1996. Last year was better, it was just cloudy. This year we had sunshine, but cold wind!
The festival takes place on March 15 each year. If you plan a trip to Japan or live in Japan, stay the night before in Nagoya or closed by. Nagoya is a larger city between Tokyo and Osaka, by Shinkansen (bullet train) it takes two hours from Tokyo. If you come from abroad, take a plain to Nagoya or Osaka.
Parking is a problem around Tagata shrine, so it is better to leave the car at home and take the train. Directions from Nagoya: Take the Meitetsu train to Inuyama, transfer to the local Meitesu line, direction Kami Ida, and get off at the small station of Tagata Jinja Mae.
Mr. Awata, the Priest
"There used to be many Hounen Matsuris all over Japan," said Takahiro Awata, a Shinto priest from Tagata. "Usually it was a quiet procession made by villagers for villagers. Sometimes they used carved daikons (a giant horse radish) as symbols. The Matsuri at Tagata is unusual in the sense that it uses wooden symbols."
Mr. Awata, a shinto priest
"The purpose of Tagata's matsuri is to pray for Hounen - a fruitful year. All things should grow prosperous. Like a good crop of the 5 main grains in Japan (rice, wheat, foxtail millet, millet and beans). Like a good birth for pregnant women and an indefinite continuation of one's family."
Miss Yasuko Fujii
Fujii-san, an accolite, said, "Many Japanese are embarrassed when they talk about the Matsuri in Tagata. Most people think it is about sex. Many come just to have a good time at the Matsuri, they don't know the real meaning."
"Some people have a negative image about Tagata. I wish that they would come here in person, not just listen what other people are saying. I hope they will understand the real meaning of the Matsuri."
Some Other Thoughts
I think, most of us foreigners also don't know the real meaning. The first time I went to the Matsuri I didn't understand much, I just thought, wow, that's something really different. I was surprised to see Japanese families with kids and also elderly people. Everybody had a good time. There were no hidden religious morals, telling you, "this is dirty" like in our western culture. The Japanese joining the Matsuri seem to take it so much more in stride.
On the other hand, many of my Japanese co-workers and friends don't know or want to know about Tagata. They think, that foreigners will get a bad impression of Japan from seeing this festival. However, many foreigners I talk to are quiet interested and would like to see the Matsuri once. How about you?
One last note
This is an unofficial guide of the Hounen Matsuri. For further information contact me (peter[at]thoeny.org), or the representatives at Tagata Shrine.
Address of Tagata Shrine: Tagata Jinja, Tagata-cho 152, Komaki City, Aichi-ken, Japan. Phone +81-568-76-2906 (Japanese only!), Fax +81-568-76-2099.