Kanamara Matsuri: Phallus festival in Kawasaki

After sharing my Golden Week Vacation 2012 with you recently, I want to go a little bit back in time and share my short spring vacation in April 2012 with you. I only had 5 days, but I tried to see as much as I could. The trip started quite “interesting” with one of the weirdest festivals in modern Japan: The Kanamara Matsuri (aka “The Phallus Festival”).

Warning: Some of the following photos contain nudity to a certain degree and also show “phallus items“. If you feel easily offended by this, don’t read on!

smilie Visited: April 1st 2012 smilie

The Kanamara Matsuri (かなまら祭り) also known as “Festival of the Steel Phallus” is a traditional Shinto festival.
In recent days it has become a very popular festival in Japan – especially among foreign tourists:

Kanamara Matsuri

It is very crowded and locals told me that every year more and more people come.
If you don’t like crowds or places in Japan with more foreign people than Japanese (well, almost), then DON’T GO THERE!
I usually hate “popular” things like that where EVERYBODY and their friends are, but I wanted to experience this festival at least once.

It is held on the first Sunday in April (*however in 2011 they cancelled the festivities due to the Great Tohoku Earthquake).


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Kanamara Matsuri

The Kanamara Matsuri is held at the Kanayama Shrine (金山神社) in Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture (map). The location can be easily accessed by train from Yokohama (~ 22min.) or Tokyo (~33min.). Get off at “Kawasaki-Daishi Station“.

Kanamara Matsuri

The festival dates back to the Edo period (1603-1867). There is a famous legend among locals that explains the origins of the “Kanamara Matsuri”:
Once there was a sharp-toothed demon who fell in love with a beautiful young woman. She wasn’t interested in the demon and when she decided to marry another man, the demon became very jealous. He inhabited her vagina the night before the wedding. That way the demon bit off the penis of two of her husbands.
Everybody in the village was upset and so finally a blacksmith forged a steel phallus. With that they tricked the demon. His teeth were broken and he left the girl’s vagina.
This eventually led to the enshrinement of the iron phallus and the Kanamara Matsuri.

Kanamara Matsuri Kanamara Matsuri

From then on prostitues would pray for protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
In recent days a lot of married couples visit when they want to start a family. It’s also frequented by transvestites and gays / lesbians.

The festival has changed a lot. It’s a huge and crazy event that combines Shinto traditions with modern elements.
In the past few years the festival also became known in foreign countries and so more and more foreigners visit every year. The money earned from all the goods they sell is used to help AIDS research.

The festival will start around 11am, but it might be a good idea to arrive a bit earlier than that as it easily gets crowded later on. It then will continue until the late afternoon. There’s also a detailed schedule for reference, but only in Japanese.

Kanamara Matsuri

A lot of the ema and lucky charms of the shrine are phallus-themed as well.

Kanamara Matsuri Kanamara Matsuri

You can purchase a huge variety of “phallus items” on the shrine grounds. As mentioned earlier the money earned will go into HIV research funds.

Kanamara Matsuri

Another attraction are penis (o-chinko) and vagina (o-manko) boiled candy popsicles. They sell out rather quickly, so if you want to grab some, you should arrive early!

Kanamara Matsuri

And when I say they have all sorts of items you can imagine (and can’t imagine!) I MEAN it! *g*

Kanamara Matsuri

Not only the items were interesting, but also the people selling them. Can you see the man in the background, wearing a “penis nose”?

Kanamara Matsuri

This woman with a hilarious penis thingie was advertising her stand where you can buy “Penis Energy Balls“.

In fact, they were just selling normal “takoyaki” (たこ焼き).

Kanamara Matsuri Kanamara Matsuri

Carved products, keychains and even drinking straws could be purchased!

Kanamara Matsuri

Even more hilarious than the items were the people who attended the festival.

Kanamara Matsuri Kanamara Matsuri

This man got all the attention. He ran around almost completely naked!

Of course, foreigners were the first who approached him to take photos. I was a bit intimidated and just took two quick shots while passing by.

Kanamara Matsuri

A lot of weird fellows! I’m quite sure that it was a man who was hiding inside this hentai / anime costume.

Kanamara Matsuri

*LOL* I have no idea where this dog(?) came from. So many weirdos, but that’s what makes the festival interesting. And there were a LOT of Japanese children around – in case you were wondering!

Kanamara Matsuri

There are 3 types of mikoshi (portable shrines) that are carried throughout the local streets during the festival.

Above you see one of them: The Kanamara Fune Mikoshi (かなまら舟神輿, fune = ship).

Another one is “The Big Kanamara Mikoshi” (かなまら大神輿). It’s not pictured, but looks similar to the one above.

Kanamara Matsuri Kanamara Matsuri

One of the highlights of the festival is the third mikoshi, a huge pink penis called “Elizabeth Mikoshi” (エリザベス神輿). It represents the legendary “steel phallus” who helped the young woman to get rid of the demon. The original “steel phallus” is located in the “Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine” (若宮八幡宮) which is one of the very few remaining fertility shrines.

Kanamara Matsuri

The pink penis is so popular that even Pikachu was following it!!! (O__O”) [/random]

Kanamara Matsuri Kanamara Matsuri

Carrying around the three mikoshi was part of a huge parade through the streets near the Kanayama Shrine and the Kawasaki-Daishi Station.

Kanamara Matsuri

Almost every parade in Japan has “flag wavers“. The flags of the Kanamara Matsuri were especially colorful. Some of them had Momotaro (aka “Peach Boy”, 桃太郎) on them.


More photos of the festival:

Kanamara Matsuri Kanamara Matsuri Kanamara Matsuri Kanamara Matsuri Kanamara Matsuri Kanamara Matsuri Kanamara Matsuri Kanamara Matsuri Kanamara Matsuri Kanamara Matsuri


When? 1st Sunday in April (11am ~ 4:30pm)
Fee: The festival can be attended for free.
Access: Kawasaki-Daishi Station (a short walk from there)
Website: http://kawasakidaishi-kanko.com
If you intend to travel around Tokyo and / or Yokohama, you should check out the following travel guide books: (*click on the image for more information)

Tokyo Travel Guide Tokyo Travel Guide

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