Good harvest festival, Japan

Hōnen-sai matsuri, Komaki, Japan.

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For festival pictures click here


In India round is united with straight in the lingam-yoni. In Tibet, wisdom and compassion are brought together in a copulating couple: yab-yum. In the Netherlands we only recognize the physical rumble and rampetamp and embody this accordingly in a straight face – we don’t do such things.

Actually, for half a century one-dimensional symbols have been openly and nakedly exposed in the windows of sex shops - or wherever they may promote sales.

Of course, I'm being simplistic here but that somehow suits the plastic topic.


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Just before spring is the moment to perform fertility rituals. In many cultures around the world. With analogous actions in one world, one aims at results in another - without any causal connection whatsoever.


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In Nepal, for example, the mother of the house cultivates at the end of winter a few beans in an earthenware pot and two weeks later, on the festival, her family is adorned with a bunch of sprout behind the ear.

In other cultures people lay – between an ox and a donkey – a baby in a manger with hay. Or lay down eggs here and there. It is as if man attempts to seduce nature… 

- Rather strange, those analogous rituals, it seems like praying. Or doing magic.

‘Strange?’ Ais repeats. ‘How about young men who lie co-puffing alongside their labouring wife?’

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In Shinto Japan, as in any polytheistic society, there is plenty of space to believe whatever you want and to express this belief in a ritual.

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In Komaki the peasantry drags a large wooden penis from one temple to another. Because quite a few foreigners come and watch this with amazement, the village hands out a stencilled elucidation:

It is important to remember that the phallus is not a magical object in itself, it is not worshipped itself, it is rather a symbolic object evoking themes of fertility. 

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The very name of the festival Hōnen-sai matsuri is telling: Good harvest festival.

Naturally all other associations are having a field day during the procession with the formidable, cedar phallus. ‘Wow, imagine this thing in erection…’ 

Nowhere, however, a sign of shame. Nor of vulgarity, as a matter of fact.

That would be unthinkable in this country full of civilized people. Civilized in the sense of not loud (no mobile bleating), not rude (nowhere heedless behavior), not impatient (none jumps the many ques), not antisocial (nowhere street refuse, everyone holds on to his own, wastebaskets are rare), not rude (no one runs you over but rather lets you pass first), and so on.

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This kind of civility was most elegantly exhibited during the festival by a woman who took off her right glove to point us the way and then put it on again.


A relief, thinks Ais, although it does lean a bit towards Switzerland…


For festival pictures click here

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All photographs and texts © Kashba, Ais Loupatty & Ton Lankreijer. Webdesign: William Loupatty.