The fun Onda matsuri takes place annually on the second Sunday in February at the Asukaniimasu Shrine (飛鳥坐神社), close to Asukadera Temple in the Asuka district of Nara Prefecture. Onda matsuri is a fertility festival and is meant to bless the planting and cultivation of rice.
A large crowd gathers below a stage at the shrine waiting for the festivities to start at around 2.30pm.
Four masked male participants including Tengu and Otafuku act out various, often comic scenes, including a simulated erotic performance between the pair, thought to be a kind of ancient sex education lesson. There is also a kagura sacred song and dance performance by a shrine maiden accompanied by instruments.
Later a cow-masked participant mingles among the crowd lashing out at the backsides of mostly children and young adults to "beat the devil out of them" as he pursues his victims among the dried rice fields along a stream near the bottom of the steps leading up to the shrine.
Onda matsuri is a particularly ancient rite that is thought to date back at least to the Asuka period of Japanese history.
Kashihara-jingu-mae is the nearest station on the Kintetsu line south from Nara or east from Osaka, from where it is possible to hire a bicycle for the 20 minute cycle to the shrine.
Inside Track Japan For Kindle