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Celebrating the Buddha
April 8, 2000

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Rudy: "The country of Japan has really been through the wringer in the past week or so. First there was the volcano that erupted on Hokkaido, and then the resignation of Japan's cabinet after Prime Minister Obuchi suffered a stroke. But amidst all the chaos, there is the hope that comes with spring, and some important festivals that take place in Japan this time of the year. Joining us with details in this week's Culture Watch is Michelle Kholos. Hi Michelle."

Michelle: "Hi Rudy."

Rudy: "So there's a lot happening in Japan this time of the year, huh?"

Michelle: "Yes, it all begins Saturday, April 8th, which is the most important Buddhist holiday of year because it's the day the Buddha was born."

Rudy: "When was that?"

Michelle: "That was in the sixth century B.C."

Rudy: "And what do they do to celebrate?"

Michelle: "Well, there's this Hana Matsuri Flower Festival in Japan that takes place in the temples. The one in Tokyo sounds particularly beautiful. It begins with children leading the processional to the famous Sensoji Temple, and they pull a white papier-mâché elephant along the way."

Rudy: "Which is the sacred animal associated with Buddha, right?"


Michelle: "Right. So what happens is that everyone gathers to shower the Buddha with tea and flowers, and then they parade him through the streets."

Rudy: "Sounds beautiful! Kind of messy, though."

Michelle: "There are more festivals later in the week that seem a bit odd by American standards, like the Festival of the Heron Dance on April 11th in Tokyo. That's Heron as in the bird. And, of course, who can forget the Fertility Festival?"

Rudy: "We talked about that on the show a few weeks ago."

Michelle: "Right, when you spoke with Neil Teplica and Dave Freeman who wrote about it in their book, '100 Things to do Before you Die'. It was one of their top 100 recommendations. I found some tape of one of them describing the Fertility Festival. Want to hear it?"

Rudy: "Yeah, refresh my memory."

Michelle: "OK, here it is..."

Teplica: "The festival is complete with thousands and thousands of phalluses of all different shapes and sizes. And the main phallus is 1,000 pounds and eight feet high and there is a big parade. There are grandmothers carving these things streetside, and children and adults and families and individuals all go. It's a big fertility festival, but it's not about sex."

Rudy: "OK, it's all coming back to me now, the old fertility festival. You don't see a whole lot of that here in the States."

Michelle: "Yeah, I don't know if we're ready for that."

Rudy: "Any other events we should know about coming up in Japan?"

Michelle: "Well, I couldn't possibly get through all of them. There's a whole host of festivals this month, so check out these links. And that's this week's Culture Watch."


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