In various areas of Japan, festivals for fertility, good luck and harvest are common. You might have heard about the famous ‘Honen Matsuri’ or ‘Kanamara Matsuri’ where the bounty of harvest is celebrated with a phallus parade. There are different versions of this type of festival around Japan. One such festival is the ‘Onda Matsuri’ celebrated around February 3rd at Asuka Niimasu Jinja shrine in Nara.
The ‘Onda Festival’ is also called as the ‘Sexy Rice Planting Festival’. It is because on this day, people worship their gods in order that they might be blessed with a good rice harvest. The ceremony starts with an offering of prayers for rice planting followed by an enactment of a ‘marriage play’ between a goblin and a human woman. The day marks the ‘first sun’ indicating the arrival of spring. Fertility and harvest go together in Japan. This is one of the oldest festivals here and is a festival for agriculturists and farm workers. Asuka was Japan’s cultural and political center in the past. The chief priest of Asuka Shrine belongs to an unbroken family line stretching down 87 generations conducting the festival for more than a thousand years.
Two people; one dressed up as a goblin, ‘tengu’ and the other as a human woman (both played by two male actors in masks) perform a play pretending to be a married couple having sex. This festival is very graphic and scenes such as sexual positions, spanking and so on are enacted. A third person who is a masked priest gives them a helping hand in getting the job done. It is very fun to watch and the whole arena is filled with laughter from onlooking people. Sex, in most parts of the world including Japan, is still a controversial and personal thing. Most people don’t talk about it in public and this festival seems to be the exact opposite of the usual social rules. Funny gestures of ‘tengu’ wearing a wooden phallus and throwing tissue rolls on the onlookers seems pretty entertaining. You can also get spanked by the performers if you want at the shrine. No, really!
It may look a bit strange and graphic to many people but other people are having really great fun during the festival. And it is an age old tradition and men and women both from the region celebrate it annually with a lot of fun and excitement.