Very popular among foreigners! Tochio’s phallicism festival “Hodare Festival” report
A festival that makes people feel a sense of the season with the city bustling with people excited to revel in festive spirit. There are many festivals around Japan, but the festival that is held in the Tochio district in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture is famous because it is the biggest and best. “Hodare Festival” is also called “the Strange Festival of Echigo”
The photograph at the top shows a symbol of the man that is object of worship. It shocking to the newly-wed brides straddle the wooden phallus , and is carried around by male attendants. Even though it has shape of a phallus it is not meant to arouse sexual feeling !” “Crazy!” This is a traditional event that reflects Japan cultural heritage .
The Hodare festival becomes popular through word of mouth by people who have joined this festival .This festival is visited by tourists and photographers from all over the country . Many foreigners have joined the festival out of curiosity . During the festival the a small settlement with 55 people is usually surging with thousands of tourists .
I participated in the festival .
What is “Hodare” ?
The venue is in the mountainous area of ShimoRaiden , Tochio, Nagaoka City .
The area has beautiful rice terraces as its cultural landscape and it is rich in agricultural products. Due to heavy snowfall and unfriendly land terrain its population is decreasing year by year .
The festival started in 1980. It was mooted by a local young men association with the intention “ to revitalize the village” .The original festival was held in Edo period. It has since evolved into a fertility festival where young brides straddled on the object of worship which was placed on the cart and paraded through the street . This is the 38th anniversary . The festival has become a major event for the village.
Hodare, the name of the festival means ‘ the panicles of rice plants are hanging down’. “The name conjures hope of bountiful harvest” said Takashi Sato who is the festival’s executive chairman . Spring is an important season for the region as it is when planting of famous KOSHIHIKARI rice begins . It is true that the rice plant resembles the shape of “Hodare” .
“ The object of worship bears the shape of a symbol of manhood and it is believed to bring good fortune , fertility and marital success. . I have also received a happy report that a woman who has not been blessed with a child for many years has given birth to a baby after participating in the festival. ”
I wonder why the object of worship has a phallic shape. This phallic shape object of worship is being worshiped in all parts of the country. “KANAMARA Festival” in Kanagawa prefecture, “Harvest Festival” in Aichi prefecture, etc., the wish is put as a mysterious symbol to govern life.
Because such expression often appeared in the oldest Japanese history book ‘ KOJIKI’ , it is understood that the character does not bear a sexual connotation. Thus , Japanese are more open and spontaneous about it.
In other words, the festival is not so much about sex, it is a festival where you witness the old customs of Japan where the focus is on worship and gratitude. If you can understand this, you will surely be grateful to “HODARE”.
Hodare Festival” was started with fine weather !
The time is 10:00AM, the sound of triton and drums is reverberating and the festival has just begun. The local young people and the children begin to parade the village each with a long rosary, called “large bead”.
The main venue of the event. The right hand is the HODARE shrine.
The HODARE Shrine has an overwhelming presence with Height 2.2 m, 600kg weight. The shrine is only taken once a year so it is a rare opportunity.
The shrine is surrounded by traveler’s guardians . A traveler’s guardian is a god anointed as a guardian of a village that blocks the evil spirits that come from the outside world and is placed everywhere in the village. There are a lot of traveler’s guardian dieties in SHIMO RAIDEN district where the local people pray for family harmony and safety .
Shortly after 11:00AM , the procession returns back.
Then, the big rope is put on a huge cedar tree which is 800 years old by the side of the shrine . The rope used is heavy about 300kg and it is heavier than the rope used in the previous years. It took 20-30 people to wrap the rope around the tree.
The newly-wed brides play the lead role in the ceremony . All are married for less than a year. A Shinto priest performs the ritual & prayers for exorcism of bad spirits , prosperity of descendants and fertility.
Sake cask is opened by the newly-wed brides. When they hit the upper lid of the cask with a mallet,loud applause can be heard coming from the hall . The sake in the cask is served to the participants using leaves used for the ritual.
It’s around 12:00PM. I went to the food stalls because I was hungry.
Let’s enjoyed the delicious food to warm the body.
The specialty was “raccoon soup (“mocha”-a rice cake – inside )” ,price was 400 yen. The raccoon was hunted by a local hunter . I ate lots of vegetables! Besides this, there are a lot of delicious things such as the fried tofu which was the specialty in Tochio
The newly-wed bride have straddled on the wooden phallus , let’s kick off !
By the time the main event has finished , everyone’s stomach was so full with food . The newly-wed brides were then transferred to a huge portable shrine (called MIKOSHI ) . It’s a tense moment as the 600 kg shrine was being moved. The crowd cheered when the shrine was carefully moved without toppling . There was a sense of togetherness . It was cool !
The newly-wed brides were seated on “HODARE”. It was smooth, and everyone sat cautiously so that she would not slip from “HODARE”.
“HODARE” was finally leaving! The frame of a MIKOSHI which weighed more than 1 ton was carried by many male attendants shouted loudly in unison . The audience was enthralled and thrilled . The cameraman who wanted the best shot was willing to run after the Mikoshi . On the other hand, the newly-wed brides seemed to be very happy and composed. They smiled at the audience .
The moderator ‘s sense of humor with a erotic twist kept everyone entertained and in awe.
The excitement of festival reached a climax when the wealth lottery event was announced . The newly-wed brides scattered the five yen balls and the candies to the audience.
Every five yen ball came with a lottery. The grand prize was a straw rice bag of KOSHIKARI (famous brand of rice) ! The audience was excited to get the five yen balls.
Unfortunately, I didn’t win the lottery but I had a happy and satisfying day at the festival . It was more than I imagined. The ritual & prayer for the prosperity of descendants and easy delivery was solemn but the Mikoshi (a portable shrine) and the raffle created lots of excitement . I got a glimpse of a proud heritage of Japan.
The impression of “Hodare Festival”
Interviewing the newly-wed brides and the foreign tourists
The excitement of the festival finally came to an end . I was eager to know what was the impression of everyone who participated in the festival . I interviewed the newly-wed brides and foreign tourists.
“For Tochio residents, the festival is a famous big event. When I got married, I wanted to take part as the newly-weds brides ”
“Even though she had a rough ride on the Mikoshi it was very fun and a memorable event.”
The newly-wed brides participated in the festival willingly.
“ HODARE” riding would be a milestone in their marriage.
I continued to interview foreign visitors.
“I love the festival of Japan, and I come from far away We likes “HODARE” festivals compared to the other festivals in Japan and have been to this festival five times. A powerful Mikoshi is the best! ”
“I was surprised that there was no festival of sex in Vietnam. Today was a great opportunity to experience the stretching of the sacred rice straw rope, and to participate in the festival.
“Anyway, I was surprised that “HODARE” was big! I’ve never seen anything like this. Japanese festival is unique , isn’t it? ”
Although I was puzzled by the openness displayed by the Japanese in this festival , I thought the festival was impressive and I enjoyed myself. It was a rare festival that even Japanese people would be surprised, so it would have been more shocking for those from overseas.
It’s a festival that makes visitors feel exciting. In fact, not only the local people but also the NPO International Student Volunteer Association are participating as staff. This year, about 30 people rushed to help, and they supported the venue and sales. The young people who were talking passionately about Tochio as if it was their hometown.
“At first I was surprised by the content of the festival, but when I saw how local people were working with love, I was proud that I participated in this festival. As young and outside I want to be more involved in the festival in the future.”
Because of the impact of the festival, it tends to be called “odd festival”, but this is the impression of the local populace, and it seems to resonate in the mind of students who want to experience the culture of Japan. After the festival, I met local residents and students we chatted at the raccoon soup, and I felt that the festival created a good opportunity for bonding
The souvenir of the Festival Limited.
Finally, I would like to introduce you to the souvenir of the Festival Limited. A huge Secret object “HODARE” is fine, but the goods (a good luck charm or candy )are very cute. It is sure to be pleased if it makes it to the present because there is a profit such as a prosperity of descendants and an easy delivery.
The good Luck charm for prosperity of descendants and an easy delivery and matchmaking are auspicious items . I saw that the newlyweds and pregnant women purchased them. The “marriage” and “child charm” have the embroidery and the designs are wonderful .
Candy that shaped like the symbol of a man and woman. You may be able to have a baby if you eat this as it is printed on the package as “Sazukari (pregnancy )candy”.
“Sazukari (pregnancy )set” is gorgeous with “Boy” and “Girl”. It is decorated with red Camellia, and a happy feeling is further up. Three-color candy became “a set brother of Chibi-chan (a peewee) ” is too surreal to laugh.
This is remarkable. The craftsman cut down the tree one by one , and the mini secret objects are made meticously . There is a smooth and sleek touch. Should get a “HODARE “
Every family should have one to decorate the altar .
By the way, because the candy was very popular, it had already sold out before noon. If you want to get sure, we recommend you buy early.
“HODARE” festival is held on the second Sunday of March every year. Next time is (Sunday) March 11, 2018. The newly-wed brides, less than a year of marriage, who would you like to take a ride in commemoration of a lifetime? Please check the website for more information
Text & Photos:Mariko Watanabe / Translated by 8TRIPS
[date/time] every second Sunday in March, 11:00 am. to 2: 00pm
(however, 10:00 ~)
[Venue] Hodare Daimyojin, Raiden (shimo Raiden),Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture
[inquiry] Tochio Tourist Association 0258-51-1195/Nagaoka City Tochio Branch Office of Commerce and Tourism division 0258-52-5827