|The 道祖神 Dōsojin at Hatsumi Sensei's House, photos by Michael Glenn|
Before I describe what Soke shared, let me explain my first phallic encounter. A local guy from a certain neighborhood told me about 鬚神社 hige jinja (beard shrine). I was intrigued because I thought I had seen all the shrines in this neighborhood.
He took me to 聖天島 shōtenjima where (土俗の神様 dozoku no kamisama) a local folk kami is enshrined on the island. The island was surrounded by brown, dried out lotus plants in their ugly fall phase.
I followed him to the edge of a moat. There, across the water, was what appeared to be old ruins. We walked across a small footbridge. He pointed at one statue that looked like a giant penis.
But why was it called hige? He told me I had to look at the back of it. I shimmied on the tips of my toes along the edge of the moat to get a look. The ura side of the statue was a depiction of 役行者 En no Gyōja who usually has a beard.
|Phallic 役行者 En no Gyōja statue, photo by Michael Glenn|
En no Gyōja is the founder of 修験道 Shugendō. In this statue, his pilgrim's cloak is wrapped around his head and shoulders in such a way that from the omote side he looks like a large cock!
|Phallic 役行者 En no Gyōja drawing from here|
He told me that back in the Edo jidai, the neighborhood was known as a place for lovers. There were lots of 出会い茶屋 deai chaya or teahouses that offered sexual services, or where people could have a secret rendezvous with a lover. People may have prayed at the shrine for virility, fertility, or even to protect themselves from disease.
A few days later I went to Soke's house. He showed me the far corner of his yard where there were stones representing male and female genitalia (see top picture). These were examples of 道祖神 Dōsojin, a traveller's guardian deity. You can find these monuments throughout Japan. They often portray a couple in embrace or even lovemaking. But often the stones are in the shape of phallus and vagina.
There is an interesting connection with En no Gyōja. First of all, he was a legendary traveller. Second, he had two servants named 前鬼 Zenki and 後鬼 Goki. They started out as demons but En helped them become human and now they are a married couple representing yin and yang.
When I look at portrayals of Dōsojin that are of the embracing couple, I am reminded of Zenki and Goki. 前鬼 Zenki means front demon, the yang, like the phallus image I was greeted with on the island. 後鬼 Goki is the behind demon, ura, yin and maybe represented by the parted and open robe or cloak.
So next time you are training with Soke and he paints a big phallus, or a kunoichi with a red vagina on your scroll, maybe he is wishing you safe travels! If you are lucky, no one will ask whose bed you sleep in during those lonely nights in Noda.