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 as a copulating couple: yab-yum. In the Netherlands we only recognize the physical rumble and put up a straight face – we don’t do such things.

Actually, since half a century one-dimensional symbols are openly exposed in the windows of sex shops – or wherever the sexy merchandise needs to be promoted.


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Just before spring, just before nature pciks up again after winter, seems to be the right time to perform fertility rituals worldwide. With actions in one world, one aims at analogous 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, during the festival, each family member is adorned with a bunch of sprout behind the ear.

In other cultures people display – between an ox and a donkey – a baby in a manger. Or hide eggs here and there for the children to find. 

As if man tries to seduce nature...

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

‘Strange?’ Ais reacts. ‘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 express whatever you want to believe 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 say it all: Good harvest festival.

Of course, 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 trace of shame. Nor of vulgarity, for that matter.

That would be unthinkable in this very civilisized country. Civilized in the sense of not loud (no mobile bleating), not rude (very little indifferent behavior), not impatient (none jumps the many ques), not antisocial (nowhere any street refuse, everyone holds on to his own, wastebaskets are rare), not rude (no pushing or shouting), 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.



For festival pictures click here

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