Very popular among foreigners! Tochio’s phallicism festival “Hodare Festival” report

2019年 3月 4日 | な!ナガオカ スタッフ

これは海外向けに、過去に公開した記事、外国人にも大人気! 男根をまつる栃尾の奇祭「ほだれ祭」レポートを英語訳したものです。

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.

Takashi Sato, who is the chairman of the Festival Executive Committee is the husband of the only newly-wed bride from Shimo Raiden district.

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” .

It is said, “HODARE “ when used as character is an auspicious word it means ‘the boughs that bear most hang lowest’. So “HODARE” is worshipped as a god of rice plants and grains.

HODARE” is the phallic type. Is it similar to the shape of the rice ear ?

“ 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.

A travelers’ guardian deity for happy marriage.

A travelers’ guardian deity for phallicism.

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.

This is a sacred rice straw rope used for warding off evils .It is handmade every year by using the rice ears which are reaped from local farms.

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.

This year there are 7 newly-wed brides. They are from the city of Nagaoka, Niigata, Ojiya and Joetsu.

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 freshly made rice cakes in the raccoon soup have a soft flavor.

Fried Okara (soybean curd refuse ) named “AGE AGE AGE ”

The large scallop from Iwate has the smell of the ocean and a chewy texture.

Tochio Specialty Big Fried tofu is also sold.


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 second “HODARE“ with the newly-wed brides thrilled and created excitement for the crowd.

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.

The prizes are local Koshihikari and Mini secret object. By the way, Canadian wins the grand prize.

” Na ! Nagaoka” editor also got  two five yen balls through her persistence.

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.

Mrs. Kobayashi lives in Tochio.. She an affinity for ” HODARE” because she help with the work of the husband who works in the sake brewery everyday.

“For Tochio residents, the festival is a famous big event. When I got married, I wanted to take part as the newly-weds brides ”

Mrs.Ominato who lives in Tochio. Not only did she pray for prosperity of descendants and an easy delivery . it has been a great satisfaction to be able to experience a valuable ride “HODARE”.

 “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.

People from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Brazil.

“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! ”

A Kind neighborhood took them to the festival. All from Vietnam.

“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.

The lady from US and her Japanese husband came with their friends.

“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.

Ms. Inoue, University student from Tokyo. She said “ I have visited many times in Tochio, and there is a discovery at every time she visited it”

“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.

(from the top left) traffic safety 500 yen, marriage 500 yen, (from bottom left) Body protection 200 yen, easy delivery 800 yen, children’s charm 500 yen.

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 .

Boy, Girl each ¥200.

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 set” ¥700, “a set brother of Chibi-chan”¥350

“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.

From the mini secret object \7,000, up to the luxury secret object ¥30,000 .

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


Hodare Festival
[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
[HP]  http://tochiokankou.jp/hodare/