On the second Sunday of March, Hodare — a 2.2-meter tall phallic statue that weighs approximately 600kg — is paraded around this small village, Shimoraiden, in Niigata.
Note: For 2024, the festival will be reduced slightly in size.
This festival celebrates fertility, be it fruitful agriculture or a fruitful womb, and so starts with rituals.
First, a rope is wrapped around an 800-year-old cedar tree and blessings are made. Hodare — who we all came to admire — is then made into a mikoshi (portable shrine) and carried down the street by the local men.
Women touch the shrine as it passes in hopes it will help their fertility and a lucky few are allowed to straddle it — although they must pre-register, be women married for less than a year, and be hoping for a baby.
But the fun doesn’t stop at the parade: Sake, udon, and other Japanese festival staples are on offer, as well as a mix of both “naughty” and serious souvenirs.
The rituals begin at 11 a.m. at the small Hodare Shrine. The mikoshi will start moving at 12:40 p.m. and travel around the village — finishing around 2 p.m.
How to get there
Getting to Nagaoka from Tokyo is pretty easy — only 1 hour and 40 minutes via the Jōetsu Shinkansen.
But the only way to access the shrine is by bus from Nagaoka Station (East Exit). Take Line 4 and get off in front of Tochio Garage (40 minutes), then take the Kuriyamazawa Line to Shimoraiden (15 minutes).
The official website gives you some suggested times for access on the day, but you can also check the timetable yourself.Organizers may cancel events, alter schedules, or change admission requirements without notice. Always check official sites before heading to an event.