One of Japan’s most ancient fertility festivals, Onda Matsuri (“Rice Field Festival”), which features public ritual sex, was held on February 3 at Asuka-ni-imasu Shrine in western Japan.
Around 1,400 years ago, Asuka was Japan’s political, cultural and spiritual heartland. The chief priest of this Shinto shrine is the 87th priest in an unbroken line of priests always named Asuka- a tradition that has stretched down the ages for 87 generations, perhaps thanks to the legendary fertility conferred by the rite, which is said to bring luck in matchmaking, marriage and easy childbirth. Easy childbirth? That sounds a tad oxymoronic. if you ask me. But at any rate, it sounds better than having my deity “greatly multiply my pain in childbirth” for my sins, naming no names…
Entering the grounds of Asuka-ni-imasu Shrine, you may notice many suspiciously-shaped rocks enshrined with honour, which resemble… yes, you guessed it… sacred rock-hard penis and vagina stones, often found in pairs.
Visitors to the festival should watch out for the masked ritual participants, as they work the crowd personally administering sound whacks to the bottoms of the unwary with bamboo flails. These gratuitous spankings are all in good fun and are dished out to everyone, regardless of whether you’ve been naughty or nice.
The ceremony begins with the offering up of Shinto prayers for the rice planting, and then a tongue-in-cheek marriage is performed between a tengu (a goblin with a long, phallic nose) and a shy, plump woman (under closer inspection, actually a man dressed up as a woman), thanks to the efforts of an elderly matchmaker who unites the happy couple. On the subject of marriage equality, Japan’s social policy seems to tend toward the liberal.
Some elements of this ancient festival are difficult to fathom- why does the tengu mime urinating on the ritual rice offered up by kneeling priests in full ceremonial dress? But urination aside, once they are goblin and wife, the tengu can’t wait to beckon his blushing bride to join him on the cold hard floor. He thoughtfully spreads out a woven mat for her to lie back and think of… uh, Japan, and they get ready to make the beast with two backs.
In this year’s ceremony, the tengu struggled to erect his impressive wooden member, proving once again that size isn’t everything. His hefty rod, drooping low, served as a mute testimony of the common problem of erectile dysfunction. Even supernatural beings can’t magically get it up on command. Finally, his bride takes the initiative, flogs his buttocks, which instantly restores his mojo, and they return to the missionary position. None of your reverse cowgirl nonsense for this tengu.
During the pantomimed sex act, the old man who played matchmaker does his best to provide them with a little privacy by running in front of their writhing bodies, shielding them from the public gaze with his shirt.
To the casual observer, this ritual sex pantomime may look like a threesome at times, with the old matchmaker joining in the action by giving things a forceful thrust in the right direction, but he’s just lending a helping hand to make sure the job gets done. Because of the graphic nature of the scene, the shrine is filled with laughter.
Once the tengu and his human man-bride have consummated their glorious union, it’s time to get out the tissues, and not for crying. The goblin pulls out a wad of tissues (in Japan it’s a good idea to keep a packet of tissues on you at all times), rips off pieces, balls them up and throws them to the laughing crowd of onlookers.
Onda Matsuri is always held on the first Sunday of February (originally it was held on the eleventh day of the first month in the lunar calendar) at Asuka-ni-imasu Shrine in the village of Asuka to pray for plenty and prosperity.