Note: this post was re-posted from my old website, originally published in June 2017.
Yeah, yeah, you read the title right. You must be thinking ‘Man is it one of those Japanese perverted festivals that people talk about?’. And yes, you are absolutely right. It’s a phallic festival alright, but not for the reason you might think. Carry on to read why.
First, let’s roll back to the beginning. I found out about this ‘Konsei Matsuri’ from my friends. It looked super interesting I got a hard-on (heh) to visit the festival. So at the beginning of Golden Week where everyone was supposed to spend lovely holiday time, my friends and I traveled to Hanamaki in Iwate prefecture to witness the magical Konsei on stage.
When we arrived in Hanamaki in the morning, we had a few more hours to kill before the festival starts at 2PM. So we decided to look around the city. First stop, a park not so far from the station, the site of former Hanamaki Castle. Unfortunately, the castle has completely disappeared, but the park houses a lot of sakura trees which still in a bit of full bloom by the time we go there.
Next, we found a rather interesting place called the English Coast (Igirisu Kaigan in Japanese or イギリス海岸). Igirisu Kaigan is named that way by a local famous person, Kenji Miyazawa, due to its geological similarities with Dover Beach in England. Kenji himself was a renowned poet and children’s literature author born and raised in Hanamaki. He published various works related to locations in Hanamaki. Too bad the tide was high when we visited the coast; nary a rock can be seen.
Approaching midday we took a bus to the festival ground, Osawa Onsen Sansuikaku. After around 1 hour we arrived at the destination and was greeted by big red banners. We were a bit early; no one else there but us. So we spent some time adoring the main protagonist of the festival, the gorgeous Konsei-sama, a huge phallic, sacred object about 1,5 meters tall made from morning wood. It’s long, big, and heavy, around 100 kilograms in weight, which will turn on everyone at first sight.
As the clock ticking the preparation was underway. A funny-sounding song with a high-pitched female voice played in the background as the staff readied a bunch of offerings to Konsei-sama’s altar. Then around 2PM the festival finally began. The opening ceremony started with a small prayer at the altar and followed by a procession to carry it into the festival ground. It took around 8 grown men to transport the mighty phallus.
When the city officials made some speech next to Konsei-sama, I could not contain my smile. Where else could you find government functionaries talk next to a magnanimous penis, encouraging more visitors to come and see the festival, celebrating the so-called tradition? Only in Japan, I guess. It was awesome to see how excited the honchos were.
After the speech came along the performance. First, there was this weird dance: two guys in a costume similar to the Chinese lion dance and an old guy accompanying them. Then a demon came out of nowhere holding two small phallic-shaped sticks. He then teased the female audiences repeatedly in a fashion that could actually be considered as harassment if not in a festival atmosphere (lol). The head priest then exchanged the sticks with bigger ones (still phallic-shaped), which excited the demon who proceeded to hit the taiko and performed a very cool show, together with several other performers in the background.
When the spectacle was over, it was time for the ultimate event — to bathe Konsei-sama and ride him for a jolly good time. He was carried over to a section of the onsen’s outdoor bath. No spectators were allowed to follow the scene from close-up so we had to be content just watching from afar, across the river.
After Konsei-sama received a vigorous cleaning that would surely enhance his prominent erection, the head priest recited some prayers and everyone bowed. He would then be lowered into the hot water where the girls awaited in patience for a chance of stardom. Riding Konsei-sama is believed to bring good fortune in matchmaking, fertility, and safe birth. Hence, the reason why he is popular among younger women. After all, it’s always good to be healthy and fertile, no?
One by one they let the younger girls ride Konsei-sama in a circular fashion. I could not help but laugh at the view. It was hilarious. I could see the mix of bewilderment, a tint of embarrassment and excited expression upon the girls’ faces — all at the same time as if they enjoyed it thoroughly being on top of the mount. All in all, it was a good sport.
And with that being the climax, the festival came to an end. Everybody was smiling. And so were we. It might be one of the best moments of spring for me. It was a very unorthodox festival, yet I love it with every fiber of my being. It was fun and unusual, and perfect to visit if you are looking for something less serious. Good job Japan!
PS: I apologize for the many puns scattered in this article. I just could not help it!
Useful sites: Hanamaki Tourism Website (Japanese)