Japan has a reputation for its fertility festivals — phallic symbols and models of genitalia make the rounds every year in spring. If you’re not interested in something quite so showy, but still want to experience a traditional fertility festival, the Gonbo (Burdock) Fertility Festival in Mie is for you.
What to expect
The Gonbo Festival is an ancient festival designed to bring fortune and prosperity to the area. The name comes from the traditional offerings of marinated burdock root (gobo or gonbo in the local Japanese dialect) to shrines. Nowadays, you’ll get the chance to see traditional exhibitions such as archery and mullet carving. These will take place at the main shrine.
Before the stage displays, there will be a parade around the main shrine. The centerpieces of the parade will be two mikoshi, or portable shrines, carried on the paraders’ shoulders. These are designed to represent the male and female genitalia, in a wish for fertility. They’ll be carried to the shrine as part of the parade.
If you want to do more than watch, you can take part in the parade, or stop for a quick snack on burdock root. The event will have a few festival trimmings — such as snack stalls — scattered outside the shrine.
- 10:00: Parade to the shrine and shrine events.
- 10:40: Archery and fish carving rituals.
How to get there
Nakayama Shrine in Mie Prefecture is quite out of the way, and most easily accessed by road. If driving, the shrine does have parking, although it’s expected to be busy.
Several train stations will link you up with buses to the area. These include Sekinomiya Station and Ise-Takehara Station on the JR Meisho Line and Sakakibara-Onsenguchi Station on the Kintetsu-Osaka Line.
If you’re looking to take public transport, the easiest way is taking a bus from these stations to Kamura Bus Stop and walking two minutes to the shrine.Organizers may cancel events, alter schedules, or change admission requirements without notice. Always check official sites before heading to an event.