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Diatribe towards modern civilization in “Myth of the Phallus”

Miyabi Ichikawa

A Satan with a shaved head and his body plastered with blue paint, Akaji Maro appears on stage and says, “Admist the rain and among an abundance of green, you have arrived at the grove of this shrine…… Well then, let us go,” and announces the start of Myth of the Phallus.” It was an indecent voice and manner suited for the frequent lewdness and absurdity reminiscent of the “Witches’ Sabbath” of Faust.

A goat played along the path that went through the audience to the stage. Naturally, the goat cried “baaa” on this blooming path. Before long, men wearing headdresses with antlers like those worn for deer dancing slowly approached the stage.

A few years ago on the second floor of an inn in Esashi, Iwate, as I was gazing out at the nearby scenery, a troupe of deer dancers sounding their drums appeared from down the path of the paddy field and were coming this way. The group gradually made their way towards town; the protruding antlers were taller than the houses, and only the antlers moving without the people visible was a bizarre sight. The entrance of “Myth of the Phallus” made me recall this spectacle.

The men wearing the headdresses forcefully stomped their feet on the stage. At the far end of the stage, they flung off their headdresses and began to reveal their naked bodies in front of the audience. Their bodies were oddly painted white, in contrast to Maro’s blue Satan, as if to symbolize children of virtue, those without impurity.

The natives of New Guinea were indeed painted white; however, here in Japan, shows in gold and silver dust as well as white powder existed here and there from the Muromachi Era, and everyone was in a boisterous state from its appearance in this performance. Painting oneself white may seem strange in appearance, but in the case of the natives of New Guinea, instead of putting on masks, their bodies themselves become masks, becoming gods and transforming themselves. It is a somber act of hiding themselves in painting themselves white.

The actors of Dairakudakan, as well, must paint themselves white as a transformation technique in their performance, so it must be the same as the transformation of the aboriginals of New Guinea fundamentally.

They wore gold penises on their bare bodies. The audience watched their manner of movement regardless of the size or their intent and laughed loudly.

When Napoleon’s army that had invaded Rome fell ill to orchitis and walked down the road with their backs bent, the townspeople who saw this also rolled about in laughter. First of all, the gigantic size of the penis was ridiculous. The lack of equilibrium and the imbalance induce laughter. Laughter expresses the excess of energy and connect to an abundance of productivity.

There are numerous performances that involve gigantic penises; for example, at the dengaku celebration at Tokumaru Honmachi in Itabashi, they swing penises and have mochitsuki. Prayers for agricultural productivity and reproduction came to have an analogical relation, and show the uniqueness of performances of an agricultural country. Before, no one had any complaints about the exposing of penises. This is because everyone unconsciously knew of the relation between agriculture and reproduction, and that the penis was a symbol. There was no one who laughed at the gigantic size of the penis, nor spoke of it as being obscene.

As the subject of Dairakudakan’s dance was the “Myth of the Phallus,” surely it is no problem to continue with the talk of penises. In ancient Noh, there was a part where monkeys walked in succession while wearing gigantic penises.

Both Oshira-sama and the stone penis are objects of worship, and in popular religion, they pray for productivity and for children to the penis that has become a symbol. It is because of the long history of the symbolism of the penis that Dairakudakan is this much attached to the penis, and nothing is fabricated beyond it.

In the scene after the dance of the penises, men wearing globes on their heads appear. If the earth is on the head, the transformation is in the legs. The wearing of globes on their heads may be an expression of earthlings. The earthlings raise their voices and yell, and the women, in an act of tensing up, move about right and left between the earthlings. The yelling must be the explosion of the earth and the coming of the end, and the aimless wandering of the women may be the characteristic of women, saying there is still sensuality on Earth. Or perhaps, the women have come from another planet to rescue the earthling men who had masks forcefully put on them.

Surely such imagination is freely allowed. Generally, it is not interesting when what is done can be somewhat understood; absurdity and nonsense goes beyond interpretation, and should allow the audience’s imagination to leap freely. Especially for the grotesque/nonsensical dancing of Dairakudakan, that freedom is allowed and the subject matter must not be closed.

This grotesque/nonsensical dancing moves from the penis to scatophilia.
The hole made at the front part of the stage appears to be the toilet. Around the hole, men with shaved heads writhe, grapple with one another, and come apart. This is evidence of their love for feces, and can be seen as a spectacle of them competing together to see who reaches the feces first. Scatophilia is something characteristic of children, and according to depth psychology, we as adults also possess this characteristic. For example, it appears that the accumulation of money is a form of sublimation of the desire to gather feces towards oneself. In fact, we are producing and taking feces in our society. It is not as if we are doing this while being deceived by raccoons, but our mentality regressing into childhood is desperately accumulating money instead of feces through loan trusts and other methods.

The picture of something like maggots gathering and scuffling in the hole of the toilet is indeed dirty. Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism, feels the devil creeping up inside the toilet, and the book that is said to have thought up a plan for the Reformation, “Gulliver’s Travels” by the infamous Swift, is filled with scatalophilia. I want to tell the people currently opposing waste processing plants and water purification plants to love feces more. If Dairakudakan’s performance was shown to the residents of Tokyo troubled by pollution, no doubt everyone would acknowledge the existence of feces. I believe this is a work that possesses such a pragmatic effect.

The blue Satan shows his face from the hole of the toilet, and evicting the maggots gathered in the hole of the toilet, he takes out a razor and slashes at them. Scary, isn't it?
This is the very devil that intimidated Martin Luther, and with it carrying only a razor, scatophiles like the maggots must run away. Unfortunately, there are some injured from running, slashed, and covered in blood.
Truly, although it is a succession of being covered in mud and covered in excrement, the next scene in which about five boys shout for whatever reason is also a regression into childhood. Depending on how one listens, it was like the tantrum of a child who could not have what he wanted bought for him, or a child being scolded for wetting his bed. Seeing adults bawling like children, the audience roared in laughter. People’s misfortune tends to be something to be glad about, and if it is fabricated on stage, the people watching laugh with a peace of mind.

After a continuation of such grotesque nonsense, the tent held up by the canopy of the theatre comes falling unexpectedly, and along with a hurricane gust and white dust, men dropped down on both sides of the stage, as if they had been crucified. It was the sudden arrival of a sacred atmosphere after a series of vulgar images.

The arms and legs of the men suspended midair were stretched out, as if their bodies were being torn away from them. The crucified men who suddenly descended from the ceiling were in agony among the dust. Aside from classical paintings, I had never seen such an image of Christ appearing from earthly ruins. It was Christ appearing from among the filth and nonsense, suffering emitting from a splendid body. One could even say that the drama that had progressed to this moment was vulgarity prepared for the purpose of this very point in time.

At the end, as if scheming a kind of conspiracy, exchanges between someone bizarrely dressed in women’s clothing and a young man in military uniform slowly take place; the blue Satan appears again, and it comes to an end.

This performance shows how the hideous, through acts of sacrifice, can leap from nonsense to the sacred in the form of the body itself. Extremely somber, it showed this to us in a way that may not have ever been seen before.

translation
Vinci Ting
December 1973
“Asahi Graph”

Related Work

Dairakudakan Temputenshiki “Phallic Mythology”

Dairakudakan Temputenshiki “Phallic Mythology”

1973