Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus)babibubebo | 7 04 2008
Chalk this up in the category of bizarre Japan. This weekend I had the chance to go to Kanamara Matsuri, commonly referred to by foreigners as “The Penis Festival.” Every year Kanamara Shrine holds this festival on the 1st Sunday in April in Kawasaki, Kanagawa. According to Wikipedia:
The Kanamara Matsuri is centered around a local penis-venerating shrine, once popular among prostitutes who wished to pray for protection against sexually transmitted diseases. It is said that there are divine protections also in business prosperity and the clan’s prosperity, easy delivery, marriage, and married couple harmony, etc. Today, the festival is used to raise money for HIV research. There’s also a legend of a demon that hid inside a young girl and castrated two young men on their wedding nights before a blacksmith fashioned an iron phallus that was used to break the demon’s teeth, leading to the enshrinement of the item.
Metropolis had this to say in their article about Kanamara Matsuri:
Today, the highlights of this saucy festival include transvestites parading through the town’s streets carrying a mikoshi (portable shrine) with a humongous pink phallus on top. And, if that’s not guaranteed to make you blush as deeply as the surrounding cherry blossoms, then the spectacle of grandmas and grandpas sucking on carnal candy and sweetmeat replicas of this stupendous phallus, is more than likely to. Other attractions include locals carving penises out of daikon (radish), children and young women sitting astride penis-shaped seesaws for good luck and fertility blessings, as well as a seated banquet in the compound of Kanamara Jinja (aka Wakamiya Hachiman-gu shrine) where the phallic radishes are auctioned.
As you might expect, because of the nature of this festival, the photos and videos I have are probably not safe for work (NSFW), but neither are they x-rated. The photos and videos from Kanamara Matsuri are not for everyone; however, they are somewhat interesting, sometimes surprising, usually inappropriate and definitely bizarre. If this sounds like something that would interest you, then continue on at your own risk to see the photos and a movie.
I have been in Japan for more than 3 years now and I am very rarely surprised by much of anything anymore…That being said, I was surprised about a couple things at this festival…
I thought a lot of people would be somewhat shy around the giant phallus, but it pretty much the opposite. I was really surprised how people were not only posing but holding their poses and waiting for everyone to take photos! Some people would even do a couple different poses, turn to one side, then turn to the other.
And I mean it is not like it isn’t obvious that EVERYONE is either taking photos and/or videos of them. See for yourself.
The other thing that surprised me was how many people brought young children and made it a family event. A lot of families seem fine with their young sons or daughters sucking on a lollipop shaped like a penis or having the children pose with the big phallus. I mean, really? You think that even though everyone obviously is taking photos that they will not take your photo or is it that you just don’t care?
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider myself conservative by any means and I was not offended, embarrassed, or uncomfortable to be at the penis festival, but just knowing that my mom and dad read my website from time to time makes me somewhat uncomfortable posting about Kanamara Matsuri! I am not sure I would like to go to this festival with my parents and if I had kids, if I were to bring them, I seriously doubt I would let them suck a penis or vagina shaped lollipop with so many people/photographers around. Especially in Japan where everyone has a cellphone, and every cellphone can take photos and/or videos. I mean, REALLY? These people don’t mind? This isn’t an awkward situation?
Anyway, there are two main parts to the penis festival, the parade and the events at the shrine. The parade is fairly short and participants carry around 3 portable shrines. A big steel phallus, a big pink phallus (carried by transvestites) and a wooden one.
The shrine is where most of these photos are from and maybe you can get a good idea of what goes on there. In addition to posing with penis you can, carve a penis (or vagina) from a large radish, eat food shaped like a penis (or vagina), walk over a relatively small penis or buy numerous things shaped like a penis (or vagina), all presumably for good luck with being fertile and protection from HIV and other STDs.
Now this guy has the right idea.
If you want to see more, there are a lot more photos of the penis festival in my gallery. The password is “i am mature” with NO spaces and NO quotations. Below is a video. If you cannot see it, here it is in google video.
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Itchiku Kubota's Kimono Museum