Find us on Facebook

The Long And The Short Of It

By Rebecca Kool


tanabataI arrived in Nagoya, Japan in the fall of 1994, fresh off burnout from six years in the hotel industry. At age 50, beset by wanderlust, I cast off the shackles of ownership, packed all my worldly goods, and set off for an adventure in the most foreign of foreign countries.

Soon afterward, I became friends with several American women who helped me navigate the language and culture roadblocks. We traveled everywhere by Japan Railway, the most efficient way to see the country.

In March, we set out for a festival that centers on phallic worship. The Taagata Shrine in Komaki is just outside Nagoya. The central theme is that the sexual joining of male and female elements is necessary to ensure abundant crops. Taagata’s festival emphasizes the male member, represented by replicas in varying sizes, including ones carved out of huge logs.

My friends and I are best described as “ample.” We three cut quite a swath and many Japanese openly gaped at the large, blond, loud gaijin. The throngs parted like the Red Sea, allowing us to board the train without the usual push and shove. After transferring to a local train crowded with others bound for Komaki , we ended up standing next to one another, hanging onto straps--overweight Kewpie dolls swaying with the rhythm of the train.

Japan’s two major religions, Shinto and Buddhism, form an integral part of its culture with both religions emphasizing group ceremonies and celebrations. Every major shrine and temple around the country—and there are thousands—has an annual festival. Matsuri are street processions held to honor the deity of the temple/shrine. Most include a mikoshi, a portable shrine in which the spirit of the deity can be moved about. Carrying the mikoshi through the streets was thought to spread the purifying power of the deity and neutralize any evil in the vicinity.

Carried along by the crowds to the heart of the matsuri, we found food, loud music, and wall-to-wall people. The shrine altar bulged with realistic replicas. Outside, a larger than life stone carving, splendidly erect, stood waiting for parents to hoist their girls atop while they prayed for her future fertility.

Fortified by sake, we eagerly awaited the main event—the parade with a larger than life phallus on wheels. Dainty kimono-clad women led the procession, each reverently holding a phallus. Well-lubricated, frenzied men presented the mikoshi to the hysterical crowds. Does size matter? In Taagata it sure does! Eager for a photo and encouraged by the lead man, I inched my way forward, dragging someone else with me.

We were positioned, my hand strategically placed. I was shoved closer to the giant member and told to embrace it. I’d had my fair share of sake so I was happy to oblige, hamming it up for the crowds who cheered me on.

We ate some unidentifiable foods, and munched on chocolate dipped bananas as we walked to the station. Standing at a crosswalk, I was startled to find a man standing close to me. Through body language and gestures I guessed that he was asking me if I’d enjoyed myself. I gave the North American hand signal for “OK.” The next thing I knew his hand flew to my breast! Perhaps my gesture was misinterpreted but I doubt it. I think some people just get turned on by the festivities.... and the sake.

We raced to get seats; soon the warmth of forced-air heaters settled the passengers. I closed my eyes and wondered what my three grown children would think of their mother’s day at the festival!

primi sui motori con e-max

Add comment

Security code

2011 Issues   December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February
April 2014 Please select one:   Online format Only articles (respond to any article here) Magazine style format Articles
Editor’s Page By Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez For more editorials, visit:   (This article is republished by way
THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS —Resonates yet in the world’s torture chambers By Dr. Lorin Swinehart   Crucifixion is among the most barbaric and
Anita’s Animals By Jackie Kellum   Many people use the term “street dog” and apply it generously to all dogs they see on the street. There

Our Issues

March 2014


February 2014


January 2014


December 2013


November 2013


October 2013