Fertility festival (Oh-agata/ Oagata Jinja)

The phallic deity Sarutakhiko leads the way


Oh-agata Jinja is a shrine near Nagoya dedicated to Oh-Agata, a kami who is said to have founded the local area of Owari County.  It’s known for its female fertility symbols and attracts women seeking marriage or the birth of a child.  As such it’s paired with nearby Tagata Jinja, famed for its ‘big penis’ festival about which I wrote recently.

A central role is played by the Hime no miya subshrine, where the daughter of Oh-Agata is worshipped.  Known as Tamahime no mikoto, she is a goddess of marriage, pregnancy, safe birth and happy conjugal life.  ‘Above all,’ says the shrine brochure, ‘she is worshipped as the guardian goddess of women.’

The shrine’s Grand Festival takes place on the Sunday prior to March 15, when the Tagata festival is held.  Like similar fertility festivals, it is aimed at securing good harvests and prosperity.  The parade is led by Sarutahiko, kami of showing the way, and features unmarried women and a vaginal symbol made of pink rice.

Vaginal openings as the source of life were widely celebrated in the past, and a keen observer will still find many cleft rocks marked as sacred by a shimenawa or bottle of saké.  Following the Meiji clampdown on such ‘primitive’ and ’embarrassing’ features, many were withdrawn from public view or scrapped altogether, as a result of which some Japanese are completely unaware of this heritage.  There are even shrine priests who feign ignorance of the sexual connotations.

It’s curious that though Japan never became Christian, it absorbed Christian attitudes through the state-sponsored Westernisation of post-Meiji times.  Time for a pagan revival, methinks!

Procession with gagaku musicians followed by women in white

Female symbol made of pink rice cake attached to the front of the mikoshi in the festival parade

Queen for a day. Symbol of female pulchritude and fertility (rather like the May Queen)

Back to the womb. Crawl through the hole in the torii for happiness!

Worshipping the female divine


Oh-agata-jinja (Tel: 0568 67 1017) is a 15 minute walk east of Gakuden station on the Meitetsu Komaki line out of Nagoya.  For visits combining Tagata Jinja and Oh-agata Jinja, head for Inuyama, roughly thirty minutes from Nagoya or Gifu by Meitetsu.  There’s a tourist information booth at the station with maps and information (tel 0568/61-6000).

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Fertility festival (Oh-agata/ Oagata Jinja) — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Fertility festival (Honen Matsuri) | Green Shinto

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