I want to introduce 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!
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:
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, 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).
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 (~ 22 mins) or Tokyo (~33 mins). Get off at “Kawasaki-Daishi Station“.
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.
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 11 a.m., 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. You can find more details about the upcoming festival here.
A lot of the ema and lucky charms of the shrine are phallus-themed as well.
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.
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!
And when I say they have all sorts of items you can imagine (and can’t imagine!) I MEAN it! *g*
Not only the items were interesting, but also the people selling them. Can you see the man in the background, wearing a “penis nose”?
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).
Carved products, keychains and even drinking straws could be purchased!
Even more hilarious than the items were the people who attended the festival.
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.
A lot of weird fellows! I’m quite sure that it was a man who was hiding inside this hentai / anime costume.
*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!
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.
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.
The pink penis is so popular that even Pikachu was following it!!! (O__O”) [/random]
Carrying around the three mikoshi was part of a huge parade through the streets near the Kanayama Shrine and the Kawasaki-Daishi Station.
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.
Extra Travel Tip: