Showing posts with label phallic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label phallic. Show all posts

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Disappeared Japan 5 Ureshino Museum of Hidden Treasures part 1


Just after crossing from Takeo into Ureshino I reached the place I had made a 15 kilometers detour to see, the Ureshino Hihokan.

With a large, golden statue of Kannon, the "goddess of mercy", flanked by two Nio guardians, one might think it was a Buddhist temple..... the modern concrete structure certainly had elements of traditional architecture,....

But sitting to one side of the entrance was a 4 metre long wooden phallus that indicated the true content of the building.

A Hihokan is a "museum of hidden treasures", and is a euphemism for a kind of museum devoted to sex... Hihokan were mostly built in the 1980's, and are mostly associated with hot spring resorts which enjoyed a boom at that time. However, hihokan are disappearing as quickly as they appeared, and this one was due to close down a month after I visited.

Actually, a large part of the exhibits were religious in nature. Fertility shrines can still be found in Japan featuring phalli, although the number is much reduced from historical times and the introduction of "Victorian" prudishness.

There were many replicas of such shrines. I myself seek out these vestiges of traditional culture and am still finding them hidden away on my explorations around the backcountry of Japan. There are a couple of big ones that are very famous, but they are not really typical. The typical fertility shrine is quite small but well-visited. A few weeks earlier on this pilgrimage, I visited Shibatatehime Shrine in Kumamoto.

Praying for a baby is the most common point of many of these "fertility" shrines, but some exist for other reasons. Up near Matsue is one where the big wooden phallus was prayed to for the relief of sexually transmitted diseases. I recently revisited another in Fukuoka, a very popular shrine, that is famous for answering prayers for sexual "vigor". A kind of spiritual viagra if you will.

There were a few examples of Shunga on display. Shunga was erotic and pornographic woodblock prints that were enormously popular during the Edo Period but which were suppressed and ignored, in Japan at least, until relatively recently following the aforementioned adoption of Victorian prudishness in the Meiji Period.

There was a small display of a variety of sexual paraphernalia like chastity belts, bondage gear, sex toys, etc, but the most intriguing, and to my mind wonderfully kitsch, were the animatronic displays that no longer worked, which I will cover in the second part......

The previous post in this series on the Kyushu Pilgrimage was the nearby Kifune Shrine. The previous post in the series of Disappeared Japan was Space World.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Miscellaneous Statues along the Hita Kaido

Statues along the Hita Kaido

One of the subjects I focus on finding as I walk the roads and lanes of Japan is sculptures. On my walk along the Hita Kaido, the old highway running East out of Kurume, I encountered a huge number of them  I've posted about the large number of Ebisu statues along the road. Ther were so may I did a second post. One town along the way had lots of Kappas, and of course, I recently posted a lot of Komainus.

This time I want to show you a selection of other statues from that day's walk that don't fit the other categories.

The top photo is of a small shrine that has a diverse collection of statues left by different parishioners over time. In this particular instance, all the statues are Buddhist, but very often they are a mix of Buddhist, Shi to, Daoist, secular, and occasionally, Christian statues.


Shrines tend to not have as many statues s temples. Earlier they would have had a lot of Buddhist staues but most were removed in the seperation of buddhas and kami. Other than komainu, I think the second most common category of shrine statues would be Zuijin. Usually nrightly ainted, but sometimes lain wood, Lafcadio Hearn says they were a shinto response to Buddhist Nio guardians, though many shrines had Nio, and in some places, like the Kunisaki Peninsula, they still do.

I have to admit I jave no idea who or what this pair represent......

You will sometimes find a white, wooden horse, usually inside a small structure. These derive, I thnk, from the ancient tradition of offering horses to shrines for rain, and probably, in my opinion, from an earlier time when animals were sacrificed. Some shrines have rather realistic, bronze statues of hotses, made in the modern period I believe. This stone horse was quite funky, and I am not sure of its purpose or meaning.

Finally, I came across this phallic statue. Once very widesread, now mostly extinct, though I do keep finding them, mostly in remote locations. Mostly fertility objects, but many were also for prayers to heal sexual ailments and diseases, and I recently came across a very popular shrine devoted to prayers for "sexual vigor".

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Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Shibatatehime Shrine


Located on the bank of the Kuma River, Shibatatehime shrine, as the suffix "hime" suggests, enshrined a maiden. As the sculpted pillar also suggests it is primarily a fertility shrine.

People pray here for fertility, safe childbirth, relief from ailments of the "lower body", and "womens problems". There is a story about the founding of the shrine that involves incest and murder.

A rich man and his daughter were traveling in the area and became exhausted. They had sex together, and next day were totally refreshed and invigorated. Later, when they again became exhausted, the daughter wanted sex again, but the father, feeling profound guilt it is said, murdered her. The shrine was established by local people to pray for the soul of the murdered daughter.

I suspect this modern version of the legend has been somewhat altered to become more palatable to late 20th century Japanese sensibilities. I seek out fertility shrines while wandering off the beaten track, and while they are far fewer than in pre-Meiji days, there are still plenty of them to be found.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Tanokami of Kiyomachi Onsen part 1

I dropped down into the Ebino Valley with its great views of the Kirishima Mountains and headed to Kiyomachi Onsen where I had a room for the night. I stopped in at the small tourist office near the station and discovered a group of Tanokami statues that had been collected together from the neighborhood.

This is Miyazaki Prefecture, but historically it was part of the Satsuma Domain which is where a particular culture of Tanokami developed in the Edo Period. Here the Tanokami, "rice paddy god" was seen very much as a tutelary deity, and statues were found everywhere.

You can pick up a map which shows the location of these statues, some of which have been gathered together. Many of the statues are painted.

These last two photos show a particular feature of many of these statues..... the weirdly exaggerated hats which look odd until you view the statue from behind when it all becomes clear. The Tanokami here have an obvious relationship with fertility......

Monday, April 3, 2017

Tamatsukuri Fertility Shrine

One of the things I am on the lookout for while I wander the back roads of rural Japan are fertility shrines. Many of them, like this one in Tamatsukuri, Izumo, are not signed, not on maps, and not associated with priests.

The Izumo area has quite a lot of them, though of course tourists don't visit them like they do a couple of the famous ones up in the big cities.

This one had quite a few small, hand-carved Phallii, as well as a few stones representing the female......

This large one was enclosed in a small structure and seems to be the main object. There was also an altar put up by a gentleman in celebration of reaching 100 years of age.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Garden of Phalli: more Mara Kannon


This is the third and final post on Mara Kannon. The first post showed the thousands of small, votive phalli left at the shrine. The second, like this post, showed the larger, more individual votive phallic sculptures left there.


The larger ones are made out of wood, stone, and steel.


Most of the phalli are left with prayers for fertility, but other reasons exist..... to cure diseases of the genitals, for improved sexual "performance" etc etc.


Mara Kannon Shrine is located in Tawarayama, a small onsen village in the mountains of northern Yamaguchi Prefecture. There are infrequent buses from Nagato City.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mara Kannon


Last week I posted photos of the ceramic votive phalli at Mara Kannon Shrine in Yamaguchi. Here are some of the other more individualastic and larger votive phalli at the shrine. Some are carved in stone, some wood, and some steel.


As promised here is the rather gruesome story of the origins of this shrine. It was founded back in the mid 16th Century, a time known as the "Warring States Period" as samurai clans all over the country were fighting each other to gain control of territory. In this part of what is now Yamaguchi two of these clans were the Ochi and the Sue.


In September 1551 in nearby Taineiji, Yoshitaka Ochi was facing imminent defeat and chose the "honorable" solution of committing suicide. Two days later his oldest son was captured and killed. His youngest son, dressed as a girl, fled to the mountains and hid out.


Next spring he was discovered near Tawarayama and killed. As was the custom his head was cut off to be taken back to the victorious leader, and for some unknown reason they also cut off his penis. Some time later the local people constructed the shrine to pray for soul.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Plethora of Phalli


There are literally thousands of ceramic votive phalli at Mara Kannon Shrine in Tawarayama, a small onsen town in the mountains of northern Yamaguchi Prefecture.


Mara is crude slang for the male member, and Kannon is the Buddhist goddess of mercy but now a torii stands in front so it is classifies as a shrine.


The phalli are left by people who are praying to have a child, so it is known as a fertility shrine now, but it has a rather macabre origin which I will explain in a later post.....


Fertility shrines are a pet interest of mine and though the vast majority of them disappeared in the early Meiji Period there are still quite a few hidden away in the backwaters of rural Japan...


Monday, December 13, 2010

The phallic stones of Asuka Nimasu Shrine


There is a collection of phallic stones at the Asuka Nimasu Shrine that I would guess have been collected from the surrounding area.

A few of them are paired with a "female" stone.


I think there is a good chance that these, or some of them at least, are Dosojin.

Dosojin, sometimes called Sainokami, were phallic stones placed at the roadside at community borders.

Often referred to as protective deities of travellers, their original use seems to be protecting the village from evil/pollution rather than protecting travellers.


Later the dosojin became rocks carved with a male-female couple, and later still Jizo statues took over some of their functions.


In some places Sarutahiko is associated with Dosojin.