All hail the mighty phallus — Experience penis worship at unique shrine in South Japan
While we Japanese are not generally a strictly religious people, willing to incorporate customs and celebrations from various religions in...
While we Japanese are not generally a strictly religious people, willing to incorporate customs and celebrations from various religions into our daily lives, it’s also a fact that you can find many shrines dedicated to a diverse range of deities across the country. But we have to say this particular shrine, which one of our reporter visited recently, is most definitely not your average place of worship. Why? Because it’s a shrine that pays homage to the male phallus! And no, it’s not a joke; everything about this shrine is quite serious, and our reporter tells us all about it below.
Purify yourself before worshiping
The shrine our reporter visited is the Yuge Shrine, located in Kumamoto Prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu. Once you arrive at the shrine, you first need to purify yourself before you can properly pay your respects to the penis god. In Japanese shrines, there is usually a washing area called a cho-zuba (手水場) where you’ll find a water basin within a small pavillion-shaped structure. There, worshipers are expected to collect a scoop of water using the dedicated ladle and wash your hands and mouth with the water as a ceremony to purify yourself, both body and soul, before you face the deity of the shrine. You can just rinse the ladle and return it to where you found it originally after completing the purification ceremony.
Coming face to face with the Penis God
Once you’ve cleansed yourself, you’re now ready to pay homage to the shrine deity — a huge wooden penis in this case! It’s believed that the act of straddling and moving across this phallus from the back to front while gently caressing it will bring you marital bliss and also endow a man’s penis with extra strength! Anyone want to give it a try and see if the saying is true?
Look into your future with an Omikuji fortune
And here’s another large wooden representation of glorious manhood we found in the shrine. Now, see all the pieces of paper stuck into the creases in the wood phallus? Those are omikuji fortunes that you can get at shrines and temples in Japan, messages written on strips of paper which are supposed to give you an indication of what kind of luck the near future should bring for you. Unless the omikuji predicts exceptionally good luck, it’s customary to leave the paper at the shrine or temple by tying it onto the branch of a tree on the premises, but here at the Yuge Shrine, visitors apparently simply leave the omikujipaper in the reassuring hold of their guardian penis.
The teeny-tiny “torii” gate could make good things happen
Japanese shrines typically are marked by a torii gate at the entrance. This distinctly shaped gate is said to serve the purpose of clearly indicating the boundary between the world inhabited by us mortals and the realm of the gods. But at the Yuge Shrine, they also have an exceptionally small torii gate — built that way for a reason: If you bend down and pass through this torii gate, they say it will work wonders for your lower back pain and allow you to enjoy nightly sessions of vigorous sex! Just remember, if you’re going to do this, make sure you take off your shoes to show respect for the gods, since you’re entering sacred ground when you pass through a torii gate.
The penis good luck charms
Japanese shrines also usually sell a variety of good luck charms called omamori, although the purpose and design of the charms may differ depending on the deity that is worshiped. The Yuge Shrine is no exception, and you can actually buy charms here in the shape of a penis, which are supposed to bring luck and keep away misfortune. And just in case you’re wondering, yes, these are genuine charms, not toys. Nothing to protect you like a bit of penis luck, right?
Why worship the penis?
On first thought, you may be tempted to call the whole concept behind this place a joke. It’s not entirely surprising after all, if you find it hard to take a shrine that glorifies the male genital organ seriously. But in truth, this is a place of worship where people come to pray for a happy marriage without (or at least, as little as possible of) the tribulations of spousal infidelity, many healthy children and even bountiful harvests, all in the spirit of honoring fecundity.
Make a wish on an ema board
These wooden plaques known as ema are also something you can find at virtually every Japanese shrine. The ema plaques are usually colorfully illustrated on one side and blank on the other, for visitors to write a wish on. Ema plaques are sold at shrines so you can write your wish right there on the spot and hang them in a designated area as a way to ask the shrine deity to grant your most fervent desires. The name ema, which literally means “picture horse”, is said to have come from the past practice of offering an actual horse to the gods as a gift when praying or making a request, but because this wasn’t exactly practical, worshipers in recent times understandably began to offer wooden plaques with horses drawn on them instead.
So, that completes our tour of the unusual penis shrine. We certainly hope you enjoyed it! Do you now feel like bowing to the great penis god? And if you’re in the mood for a bit more action than visiting a shrine, there’s always the awesome Kanamara Festival held in early April each year in Kanagawa Prefecture, where you can express your reverence for the male member to your heart’s content. But if a little quiet penis worship is what you’re looking for, then the Yuge Shrine is the place for you!