Carrying konsei-sama

Iwate Konsei Matsuri: that Japanese Phallic Festival

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, buuuut 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, four of us traveled to Hanamaki in Iwate prefecture to witness the magical Konsei-sama 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. The castle has completely disappeared unfortunately, 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 English Coast (Igirisu Kaigan in Japanese or イギリス海岸) near Kitakami River that flows through the city. I jokingly asked Mike, our friend from England, if he wants to go back to his home country. Just like me, he was eager to know why such place exists in the middle of Iwate.

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. Near Igirisu Kaigan lies a small rest house called ‘Kurumi no Mori’ which offers small refreshments to visitors. If you do come to this place, you have to visit the rest house — the obaasan-tachi who run the place are super friendly.

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. It was a total turn-on at the first sight.

As the clock ticking the preparation was underway. A funny sounding song with high-pitched female voice played in the background as the staffs 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 procession to carry it into festival ground. It took around 8 grown men to transport the mighty phallus.

Carrying konsei-sama
Carrying glorious konsei-sama from its shrine to festival ground.

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 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.

Demonic Taiko performance
The demonic Taiko performance. It was very cool to behold.

When the spectacle was over, it was time for the ultimate event — to bathe Konsei-sama and ride him for good time. The mighty phallus 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 circular fashion. I could not help but to laugh at the view. It was hilarious. I could see the mix of bewildered and excited expression upon the girls’ faces, as if they enjoyed it thoroughly being on top of the mount and embarrassed at the same time. All in all it was a good sport.

Young girls riding Konsei-sama in onsen
Preparing for the ride.
Young girls riding Konsei-sama in onsen
The full spectacle of young girls riding Konsei-sama in onsen.
Riding Konsei-sama
They did this several times you know. They enjoyed it ;)

And with that, the festival came to an end. Everybody was smiling. And so were we. It might be one of the best moments of spring to 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!

Bonus pic: my friend and his happy, satisfied mug
Bonus pic: my friend and his happy, satisfied mug

Access information From Tokyo:Take shinkansen from Tokyo Station direct to Morioka Station. Then go over via JR Tohoku Line to Hanamaki Station. From there take bus towards Osawa Onsen from bus stop no 3 (¥620 one way, 1 hour ride).

From Sendai:

From Sendai Station take either shinkansen or JR lines to Morioka Station. Then go over via JR Tohoku Line to Hanamaki Station. From there take bus towards Osawa Onsen from bus stop no 3 (¥620 one way, 1 hour ride).

Useful websites Hanamaki Tourism Website (Japanese)

Click here


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