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KOMAKI, Japan — It's springtime in Japan and that means one thing.
Actually, two things. Penis festivals and vagina festivals.
It may sound like a sophomoric gag. But these are folk rites going back at least 1,500 years, into Japan's agricultural past. They're held to ensure a good harvest and promote baby-making.
Maybe they should hold more such festivals. Japan has one of the world's lowest birthrates (1.37 children per woman), which experts blame on stagnant incomes and changing gender relations.
The center-left government that came to power last year hopes to make child-rearing more affordable with a $280 monthly stipend per kid.
Meanwhile, the festivals provide an economic shot in the arm for host cities, a party for foreign tourists and expats, and a chance for locals to let loose, too.
One of the best-known penis festivals is at Komaki City's Tagata shrine, about 45 minutes outside Nagoya, every March 15. In a neighboring village, a vagina festival is held the Sunday before that. This year, that was the 14th — meaning rare, back-to-back genital worship days.
At the Hime-no-miya grand vagina festival, parents dress up their kids, pray for healthy babies, and celebrate with sake, beer and snacks galore.
In the morning, children carry a small vagina to the Ogata shrine. Later, some 40 grown men strain under the weight of a massive vagina while carrying it to the shrine in the main parade. They're followed by two smaller vagina litters.
At the end of the day pink and white mochi (glutinous rice ball treats) are hurled into the crowd.
The penis festival the following day drew far more foreign and Japanese tourists — some 100,000, according to a festival brochure. Festival foreplay included much posing with wooden and candy penises. The main event is the parading of a two-foot by six-and-a-half foot long phallus carved from Japanese cypress.
Rik Lindhome and Kate Micucci sing "My Self Esteem's Not Low Enough to Date You" live at the Fake Gallery in Los Angeles. Song by Riki Lindhome. Download the song for free on my website: http://rikilindhome.com/
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