Can you imagine a festival where people parade through the streets carrying enormous sculptures of penises?
The Kanamara Matsuri Penis Festival, Japan
It might sound like a joke, but this festival – known as the Kanamara Matsuri, takes place annually on the first Sunday of April at Kanayama Shrine in Kanagama Prefecture. The festival is a celebration of the penis and fertility and people parade through the streets with gigantic penis shaped portable shrines, suck on penis-shaped lollipops and buy other penis-shaped memorabilia. All of the proceeds from the items sold at the festival go to AIDs research. This festival started as a small tradition but it has grown into a major tourist attraction.
The festival includes music, entertainment and food and drink just like any other Japanese festival. It takes place on the first Sunday in April, which is a beautiful time in Japan when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
The participants in the festival pray to fertility gods and ask for protection from infections. In addition to the parade there are music and performances and the festival itself raises awareness and money for HIV research. The festival began nearly 40 years ago, when this Shrine was a popular place for prostitutes to pray for protection from sexually transmitted infections. These days everyone who participates in the festival prays for everything from wedded bliss to fertility and good health.
The Legend of the Steel Phallus
The story behind the huge phallus sculptures at this festival is a strange one. According to the legend during the Edo period there was a sharp toothed demon who fell in love with a beautiful woman. The woman didn’t love the demon in return and married another man. The demon was so angry that he inhabited the woman’s vagina before their wedding night when they tried to consummate their marriage. He used his sharp teeth to bite off the groom’s penis – yikes!
The demon did the same with the woman’s next husband, so the villages decided that enough was enough. They made a plan to trick the demon and a local blacksmith forged a steel phallus. When he inserted the steel penis it broke the demon’s teeth and he finally left the woman alone.
Visiting the Japanese Penis Festival
Even if you do not read Japanese, you won’t have a hard time finding your way to the Kanamara Matsuri penis festival. The festival is marked with bright pink banners featuring large erect dongs. You can even get hands-on at the crafting booth and carve your own phallic sculpture out of a giant radish.
If you feel like joining in the parade when visiting Tokyo, the Kanayama shrine will loan you a kimono so that you can be a part of the festival rather than watching from afar. Penis costumes are also encouraged, so dress to impress when you attend this strange and fascinating Japanese cultural festival. After all, it’s all for a good cause!