This POTW is of the Kounomiya Naked Man Festival, an annual event held just after the Lunar New Year, a calendar that Japan used to follow until the post war years. It’s not often I post an image from my agents website, but it’s there, and more information on the history is on this blog.
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Ishidori is the Stone-bringing Festival, an annual Shinto event held on the first weekend of August. It is reputed to be the loudest such festival in Japan. It is not well known, but a very lively festival, and perhaps a best-kept festival secret. The festival apparently dates back to over 300 years, and involves more than 30 portable shrines representing each of the wards (or towns) within Kuwana City. Photos for this festival are being processed and should be available soon at Asia Photo Connection.
In the mean time, here’s the preview.
The Kuwana City Stone Bringing Festival, aka Ishidori, is on this weekend. This fantastic festival will be attended by yours truly. If you require advance photos please refer to the 2010 gallery shown below.
There’s a lot coming up in the coming hot & humid months.
- Nagoya Sumo Tournament, 10th to 24th July.
- Local town summer festivals begin (‘matsuri’).
- Fireworks season begins (‘hanami’).
- Yoyama Festival in Kyoto, 15th & 16th July.
- Kuwana City Stone-bringing Festival (Kuwana Ishidoria, the loudest festival in Japan), 3rd & 4th Aug.
- Word Cosplay competition, 3rd & 4th Aug.
- Nagoya Dance Festival (Nagoya Domatsuri), 26th to 28th Aug.
I’m quite busy and so I need to prioritise my schedule. Consequently, there’s no guarantee that I can go to these unless my services are pre-arranged.
The Tagata Fertility Festival, Tagata Penis Festival, or Tagata Honen Matsuri is the festival that is becoming famous for the large wooden penis that is paraded around a town. It isn’t a celebration of immaturity or pervertedness at all, as many Westerners might assume. It is actually a ceremony to ask for a rich crop harvest, and the phallus is made of fresh cypress pine each year, to symbolise newness, freshness, and fertility.
A penis? From my time in South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, I have come to realise some fundamental differences between an Anglo-Western culture (prominent in Britain, North America and Australia) and the Far Eastern countries: we have Catholicism and they have Confucianism and Taoism. This might not be ground breaking news, but it is particularly relevant in understanding why a Japanese Shrine can have a fertility festival in which families and children will attend to the order of 100, 000 attendees annually, but you will not see a phallus nor 100,000 people at a Catholic church. The main fundamental difference is that in Catholicism anything related to sex is considered a sin, and we Westerners must feel guilty about it. However, the Far Eastern countries don’t have this burden of shame, and so they are happy to celebrate and pray for a good harvest, fertility, and use a phallic symbol as well.
So who attended? To my estimation, it seems that the number of people to crowd at Tagata Shrine was far less than 100,000 people (I have seen crowds of 100,000 people and more at other religious festivals in Japan). But this shortfall shouldn’t be surprising; this festival was on the first Tuesday after the 11 March, magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake.
In the winter months the wooden phallus is carved by master craftsmen using traditional techniques, and wearing purified clothing. On the day, it is strapped to a saloon and put on display. Here is a great photo opportunity, and there’s never a shortage of happy old men to encourage any lady (of any age) to pose by the big penis. In the early afternoon the phallus is then paraded very slowly through the town. Also paraded are smaller penises, and bamboo trees with white and red-polka dot ribbons. I still need to find out what the ribbons mean, but I guess it’s more about human fertility than crop fertility.
My first trip to this event, and it was awesome… except we had to pay to get in, even though it wasn’t a rock concert. Still an awesome display of burning gun powder. Thanks to the Nagoya International Hiking Club for taking me there. See the YouTube videos for more. Pictures available at Asia Photo Connection and my PhotoShelter accounts.
I went to this event and it provided terrible access. Will need to work out something better for next year. In any case, look out for some new photos that I will be preparing over the next few days. In the mean time, here’s brief look at what it’s like.
Next weekend is the Nagoya Dance Festival, or ‘Domatsuri’. I’ll be attending. Usually it’s either extraodinarily hot and sunny, and terrible to photograph in; or wet, humid, hot and terrible to photograph in. Wish me luck this year. The Nagoya dance festival is not a traditional town festival, nor traditional dance event. It was modelled on the Hokkaido event that the Nagoya university students attended, and were impressed by. Consequently, because of the Hokkaido influence, there are Sino-Japanese style dances, rock/pop influences, as well as more traditional or jazzed-up styles as well. It’s dynamic, and a feast for the eye. I always love to see the Kyoto University teams, they have time and depth-of-knowledge to dedicate in their preparations for this event. This is a must see for all tourists visiting Nagoya at this time of year.
My blurb for PhotoShelter portfolio gallery (shown below)
The Nagoya Dance Festival competition, known locally as Domatsuri is an annual summer event held at the end of August. Domatsuri was first organised by university students in 1999, and later taken over by the city. It now attracts over 200 teams with over 20,000 participants, with an audience of nearly 2 million viewers.?
As you can see it’s a big event, and a very big deal. More information can be found at the Domatsuri webpage (in English). Below is the gallery available on my PhotoShelter portfolio, but more is also available at Asia Photo Connection (13 images available, see pages 5-6).
Each year in summer, at the most humid time of year, when it’s really, really, really hot. When people have been dying because of heatstroke and dehydration. The people of Kuwana City have their annual summer festival, known as the the “Stone-bringing Festival”, or “Ishidori” in Japanese.
I’ve asked around, but haven’t been able to get a clear and certain story of what it’s all about. The best guess an educated friend of mine could make is that usually these festivals are a time when the local people bring offerings of rice to their main local Shinto shrine. Though, one year, there must have been a problem, and so the people couldn’t bring rice. Though, the show must go on. Instead, each town, with their portable shrines deliver a white stone, to represent the rice that they would have brought if they could spare it. For one reason or another, the idea must have stuck and is continued to be repeat to this day. Incidentally, in convenience stores like 7-11, cooked rice balls are available, and make a convenient small meal on the go; much like our sandwiches. I don’t know if they had rice-balls a couple of hundred years ago, but it’s possible, and may explain why a single white stone can so easily represent rice.
During the bombing of the area in World War two, many of the town shrines were destroyed. Each year, even recently, another portable shrine is added to the annual festival, as a replacement for the one they lost 60 years before. It is expected that there would be more portable shrines added in the coming years, at least until all the towns of Kuwana City have a portable shrine again, and perhaps some new comers, too.
All these images are available now at my PhotoShelter account.
Some time back I invested in a cheap little Sony Bloggie. It’s an alright camera, as you will see. It is so light that it’s hard to hold steady, as you will see that, too. But that’s not the point. What I want to do is to give you a sample of what I see when I’m at an event, though I don’t see things with shakes and wobbles. Look in the tag cloud to the side for Sumo and matsuri (town festival) pictures
A rather noisy local town festival with portable shrines, drums and cymbals. The lanterns that you see atop of each portable shrine are arranged to be in the same shape as a rice ball (which is not in the shape of a ball, but a kind of Michelin-man triangle).
The second is a sumo bout. This footage was taken at the recent Nagoya Summer Grand Sumo Tournament. Watch out for the bitch-slap.