Kanamara Matsuri. The name may not be familiar, but if you like to read up about weird shit on the internet (like me), you may well know it by a different name; Japan’s penis festival. Of course, I went along for the 2017 celebration of everything phallic.
Some happy festival-goers.
This is a Shinto festival held annually at Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki, with the name “Kanamara Matsuri” translating to “Festival Of The Steel Phallus”, which is of course fucking glorious. But how and why? Well Kanayama Shrine is is a penis-revering place of worship (a sentence I never thought I’d type), and legend has it that a demon fell in love with a beautiful woman, but was a jealous, sharp-toothed little fucker (aren’t they all?) that hid in her vagina. The woman fell in love with a man, and on her wedding night hoped to consummate her love with her betrothed, only to have her vagina-demon bite his dick off. Jinkies. Sadly for the woman, her husband left. She fell in love again, but you’ve probably seen enough Hentai to know what happens next. Yep. Wedding night, consummate, penis is bitten off. What a hassle. Desperate (and apparently a little forward-thinking), she sought out a local Blacksmith to fashion her an iron penis, which she used to break the teeth of the demon. Nice. As you’d expect (or not), the iron dick was then enshrined for its services at Kanayama.
Kanamara Fune Mikoshi, in honour of the steel dick that broke the demon’s teeth.
At one point, the shrine was popular with sex workers, mostly women, who would pray for protection against STD’s.
Torii at Kanayama Shrine.
Today the shrine is popular with couples hoping to be blessed with a child. The festival is also a firm favourite amongst members of the LGBTQ community.
Dicks for sale!
The festival itself actually started much later, in 1969, and today is a big (sorry) draw for tourists, with funds raised donated to HIV research.
With two of the many fabulous drag queens celebrating the day.
We three dicks.
There are three portable shrines (Mikoshi) involved in the festivities; a large pink phallus named Elizabeth, who was donated to the festival some years ago by Tokyo drag club Elizabeth Kaikan, and who is carried through the town by cross dressing men/ drag queens; Kanamara Fune Mikoshi, which is a steel phallus representing the original enshrined one (it’s black), and the “big Kanamara Mikoshi” made of wood. Prior to the start of the parade, they are blessed, and the Gods are “transferred” from the main shrine into the portable ones during a Shinto ritual.
Dicks. Lots and lots of dicks. There’s dick candy (not penis flavoured, can you imagine?), t-shirts (I bought two), omamori (I bought a pretty turquoise penis and an ema board), bags, hats, badges, stickers, and so much more. Like I said, money spent goes to charity, so I didn’t feel guilty about overspending. The atmosphere is great! Everyone is in high spirits, laughing, singing, waving penises about (not actual ones, thankfully), and just generally enjoying the day. It’s crazy busy, so be prepared to get close to people you don’t know. Walk the grounds of the shrine, touch penises (not real ones), take photos with men in drag (and maybe ask them for some make up tips), buy some dick gifts, and make new penis-loving friends! Once you’ve gotten overly familiar at Kanayama Shrine, you can wait around for the parade to start (and then follow it to the park where it climaxes), or you can head over there beforehand and get a good spot (I did the latter).
The infamous dick candy.
The three penises are paraded from Kanayama Shrine through the town and into a local park, where they stay for a duration, enjoying dancing, singing, and blessings. After, Elizabeth was left behind, and the other two were paraded back to Kanayama. I left the festival early due to a flight, but I followed the parade up until I reached the station. Great fun, I wish I could’ve stayed until the grand finale.
Elizabeth in full swing.
Truly though, as much as I joke, this is a pretty great festival. By western standards, maybe a little vulgar, but it does good raising money for charity, has a high level of acceptance for different sexualities (something not common in Japan), and is a window into a different side of a country dripping with history and culture.
The festival is 11am until 4pm, but it gets busy from around 9am, so best advice is to rock up early if you don’t want to miss out.
More dicks than you can shake a stick at.
Kanamara Matsuri took place on April 2nd of 2017. The next celebration is April 1st 2018. I hope to catch some of you there.