What better way to start the day than with a temple featuring a load of phallic-shaped structures! As ever with such places there was a slightly more serious meaning behind the facade and one that is of great importance to my wife and I at the moment.
When we left my parents-in-law’s apartment to embark on a short two day-one night trip around some places in Yamaguchi prefecture I wasn’t even aware of this quirky temple. However, at the eleventh hour I did a quick search (in Japanese) of quirky sights in the area (as I tend to do quite often) and came across this temple which just happened to be quite close to where we were staying the night in Nagato.
As my father-in-law had driven us all to Akiyoshido Cave and Motonosumi Inari Shrine (two places of my choosing!) on day one in Yamaguchi, I was in two minds whether to mention it or not. However, when he asked at night if there was anywhere I wanted to go in the area the following day I couldn’t resist speaking up.
Regular Tokyo Fox readers may recall that earlier this year I visited a boobie temple in Yamaguchi-ken but this time it was the male anatomy which would take preference. Though they are both in the same prefecture they really are a long, long way apart (0ver 100 kilometres) and even further from Kawasaki in Kanagawa-ken which hosts a penis festival every year (yes, really!!) in early April. The child in me is still easily amused by such things and, though I’ve been to a penis shrine in Bangkok, this was my first temple of this kind in Japan. I am aware of there being others but they always seem to be in very remote areas.
This temple was only a 20 minute detour from our ryokan in Nagato and there wasn’t a soul in sight. A sign on the opposite side of the road (below) tells you that you are at the right place and there is a small car park just beyond it.
What was strange was that none of my family even questioned my reason to go there! As we approached the place I told them that it was a b-grade sight and not in any guidebook or pamphlet about the area. Thankfully they all saw the funny side when they realised the kind of place I’d brought them to!
Mara-kannon temple is a fairly small place located at the side of route 281 amidst the forest. There is a small wooden main temple which people wanting to be blessed with children go to which was quite fitting as we are hoping to have a baby but no such luck as yet!
There is a smaller wooden shrine to the side of the main one and both of them possess a load of phallic-shaped ornament pieces which would look good on anyone’s mantlepiece!
The temple has something of a sad history with a complicated story featuring an attack or two culminating in a boy having his member cut off resulting in villagers feeling pity for him and so this place was built to appease his spirit. Proof, if ever, that there is always a more serious meaning to places which seem funny from the outside.
Click here to read ‘A Night In Nagato And A Trip To Hagi’