The Couple Shrines of Aichi
The O-Agata and Tagata shrines of Aichi prefecture are known as the couple shrines. O-Agata Jinja is situated in the Inuyama of Aichi prefecture while Tagata shrine is situated in the Komaki area. The O-Agata shrine worships the female genitals while the Tagata worships male genitals. The harvest festival or Honensei of both these shrines is conducted every year on the 15th of March.
O-Agata : The female shrine
O-Agata enshrines O-Agata Oomikami, the god of prosperity and good luck. The main deity of worship in this shrine, Tamahime no mikoto, the goddess of marriage, pregnancy, safe birth and happy married life is residing in one of the sub-shrines named Hime no Miya shrine.
The shrine building has a small torii gate situated infront of it. It is believed that if somebody passes through it, the wishes made in the shrine will come true. Hime-ishi, a natural stone in the shape of female genitals is also worshiped here. The Ema (the wooden plaques on which the wishes are made in a Japanese temple or shrine) of this temple have a picture of a women on it. The wishes written by people are all regarding safe birth, wishing for marriage, wish for a baby or a happy married life. Many people come to this shrine to worship the goddess for making a wish on marriage, childbirth etc. The main hall or the Honden is considered as one of the most important cultural properties.
Himenomiya festival of O-Agata shrine conducted every year on March, 15th. It is the festival of good harvest and prosperity. It is led by Sarutahiko, the God showing the way followed by girls wearing wedding kimonos in the parade. A big rice cake (kagamimochi), is carried in the parade and the red rice cakes made in the shape of female genitals are another most important part of this parade. The sweets and souvenirs sold in the temple during this time will be having the same appearance of female genitals.
Umematsuri celebrations held in the month of March are another important festival of this temple. Ume or the Plum flowers are considered as the symbol of female fertility according to the Japanese beliefs. In the month of March, when the winter is about to leave and the nature welcomes the season of flowers, all the Ume tress at the small hill behind the temple blooms. There are a lot of varieties of plum trees with their name boards infront of it. The flowers could be seen in various colours that ranges from white, pink and rose colours, and even have different kinds of petals and appearances.
Photo: Bong Grit on Flickr
It is really amazing to view the temple area during this time while the entire background of the shrine premises are covered with the colourful Ume flowers hanging on it. The view from the top of the small hill is much more awesome and the cool breeze which showers the petals over us while we walk through the steps to the hill top. It gives a nice feeling when the breeze passes through the Ume garden.
There are a lot of small stalls selling Omiyage and local items in the shrine premises during the festive seasons. A lot of people visit this shrine during the Fertility festival to make their wish and pray.
Tagata : The male shrine
This shrine is dedicated for the god of the prosperity named “Tamahime no mikoto”, the female diety. This shrine worships the male genital and the famous fertility festival of this shrine is nicknamed as ‘the Penis festival’ which is conducted on the same day of the fertility festival at the O-Agata shrine. The shrine has many male genital shapes found everywhere. Even the bells hanged there are of the shape of phallus. Some such shapes are naturally obtained objects while some are man made. Those couples who wish to have a child will visit the shrine and pray for that. People looking for a life partner also will be visiting the shrine. The shrine lends one among the many phallus shape to such people who carry it home and pray for their wish to be fulfilled. Once their wish comes true, they will return the lended phallus as well as a new one to the shrine.
The fertility festival conducted here is done as a gratitude for a successful harvest of the year. During this festival, many people carry banners having the shapes of phallus and other deity shapes with them. A lot of young women carry shapes of male genitals and accompany the parade. A newly made huge wooden phallus will be carried by some of the people which is the main part of this festival. It is named as ‘O-Owasegata’ which is made by experienced carpenters and carried from all the way from Nagano. It is carried either from the Shinmei Jinja or the Kumano Jinja in consecutive years. It is said that the male deity named ‘Takeinadene-no-mikoto’ is visiting his partner enshrined in the Tagata Jinja who is always waiting for him during this festival day. The Japanese alcohol named Sake will be served freely on all the way during the parade. Once it reaches the Jinja and the prayers are all over, Japanese rice cakes named mochi will be thrown to the public by the temple priests. Along with its rituals and beliefs, this harvest festival (hounensai) is also considered a funny event carried out in the entire country.