There’s definitely no mistaking that this is a Japanese fertility festival!
When: First Sunday in April. 7th April 2013.
Where: Kanamara Shrine, Kawasaki, Japan
A large, pink phallus bobs its way down the street carried on the shoulders of a dozen men in bandanas, to the sound of their rhythmic chants. The Kanamara Matsuri (AKA Festival of the Steel Phallus, or Iron Penis Festival) is an annual Shinto fertility festival held in Kawasaki, Japan.
The festival is held in spring at the Kanayama shrine and central theme for the event is… yes, you guessed it! The Penis! Your eyes cannot escape! Illustrations, sweets, carved radishes, you name it, it’s willy shaped!
The Kanamara Matsuri is centered around a local shrine created back in Japan’s Edo period (1603-1867) which was once popular among Kawasaki’s prostitutes wishing to pray for protection against sexually transmitted diseases. The festival is now also considered auspicious for married couples seeking to start a family and attracts a large transvestite and gay/lesbian crowd too. It now helps raise money for HIV/AIDS research.
This phallic festival originates from a rather nasty sounding legend of a sharp-toothed demon that hid inside the vagina of a young girl and castrated two young men on their wedding nights. As a result, the young girl sought help with a blacksmith, who made her an iron phallus to break the demon’s teeth, leading to the enshrinement of the item and the Kanamara Matsuri.
There are three portable shrines (called mikoshi) which are carried around the town in a very colourful procession. They are the Kanamara mikoshi (the original portable shrine), Kanamara-bune mikoshi (shaped like a boat), and Elizabeth mikoshi (the pink giant).
When is the Kanamara Matsuri?
Exact dates may vary sometimes but the main festivities generally fall on the first Sunday in April. In 2012 that is Sunday 1st April, in 2013 it will be April 7th.
You’ll find lots of “interestingly” shaped foods and sweets as well as the traditional street food like Yakitori Chicken. Sekihan rice is often served on special occasions, holidays and festivals in Japan. Its red colour is considered the colour of happiness. Try our Sekihan or Yakitori recipes. Drink warm Sake.
Travel to Japan
Dates / venues may be subject to change or cancellation. Distances may be straight-line estimates. Please verify information before booking.
Enjoy your trip! And when you’re home we’d love you to come back and tell us all about it!