Kanamara Matsuri, or known as the “Steel Phallus” in English is held annually on the first Sunday in April in Kawasaki, Japan. One of the most bizarre festivals in the world, Kanamara Matsuri is nothing near pornography. It is actually a religious celebration of the penis which is held at Kanayama Shrine, a few remaining fertility shrines in Kawasaki.
Some rituals during the Kanamara Matsuri
During the festival, you will see traders selling penis-shapes foods such as lollipops and many other penis-shaped souvenirs like ashtray. It is a festival full of penises, so for those who feel offended by this, please stay far from the city on Sunday.
Kanamara Matsuri starts with the lighting of a sacred flame at Kanayama Shrine and then it is followed by a procession of a huge pink phallus, called the Elizabeth Mikoshi, around the city by a group of transvestites.
The procession of the Elizabeth Mikoshi carried by a group of transvestites
The history Kanamara Matsuri can be traced back to the 1600s, in the Edo period of Japan. It is believed that Kawasaki town was a common stop for travelers and traders who traveled from the main city. Like many other similar towns, Kawasaki was filled with tea houses where travelers and traders were entertained by the famous geisha.* These women who “served” the travelers then visited the local Shinto shrine and prayed for protection from sexually transmitted diseases. This tradition then slowly evolved and it became a yearly festival in Kawasaki.
* It should be noted that being a geisha is not synonymous with prostitution, although individuals were free to do as they wished.
Another “Mikoshi” in the city
The tale goes that the innkeeper’s daughter was soon to marry. An evil demon, upon hearing the news, decided to ruin the celebrations by crawling into the girl’s lady parts. Terrified, the girl stayed silent, so that on her wedding night, when her husband tried to consummate the marriage, the demon decided to snack on the poor man’s penis. This happened one more time to another suitor, before an ingenious blacksmith thought up a clever solution. He cast an iron penis, and used it as bait. The demon, thinking he had found another sucker to castrate, bit down sharply, and to his surprise found out that it was made out of metal. The demon fled, hurt and humiliated, and everything ended happily ever after with the girl marrying the blacksmith. To this day, an enormous iron penis is the primary shrine at the Kanamara Matsuri.
Kids enjoy the festival too
Apart from being a festival that attract huge crowd from all around the world, today Kanamara Matsuri is also raising money to fund HIV research.