The Kanamara Matsuri (NSFW)

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

The Kanamara Matsuri, or what you may have heard foreigners reference as “The Penis Festival”, is a Shinto-based festival celebrating, you guessed it… the penis!  The festival is observed every first Sunday in April, with this year’s date falling on April 6, 2014.

Traditionally, the festival is based on the folk lore tale of a woman with a demon living in her hoo-ha that bit off the manhood of her husband on their consummation night.  After re-marrying and her second husband also being castrated in the same manner, she engaged a local blacksmith to forge a steel phallus in order to trick the demon into biting the fake penis instead, thus breaking his teeth upon it.  The steel phallus then came into the possession of the Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine, located near Kawasaki Daishi station on the Kawasaki Daishi line, a Shinto shrine that celebrates the god of sexual organs and reproductive health.  In the past, the shrine was well visited among sex trade workers praying against disease, but today is revered by the LGTB community and couples praying for a child, as one of the last remaining fertility shrines in Japan.

I’d been meaning to attend this festival for some years, but up until now never had the chance to because of work, travel, or lack of company.  (Who wants to visit something this great alone?!)  Unfortunately Mr. J was busy, but a bunch of foreigners in the area organized a trip out together and we had a blast!

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

In contrast to many bigger Japanese festivals which really get going during the evening or at night, the Kanamara Festival is an afternoon event.  Crowds started gathering around 11:00 a.m., and at noon the main steel phallus mikoshi started its grand procession through the streets.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

A more recent companion, an even larger, pink penis called Elizabeth that was donated by cross dressing studio Elizabeth Kaikan, trailed only a few lengths behind.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

A third mikoshi was carried behind Elizabeth, which is supposed to contain the spirit of the Shinto god.  Trees have often been thought to be a means for Shinto gods to materialize in a way that humans can interact with.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

There was also a man dressed as a tengu, a type of mystical Shinto god.  Although I don’t believe traditionally tengu have anything to do with fertility or the male sex organ, I think because of the phallic-like shape of its nose it’s now become associated with the festival.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

Along with large groups of gaijin, you’ll also spot families in attendance, cross dressers, and cosplayers who just want an excuse to let it all hang out or grab some attention.  Legend has it a couple of years ago there was a super hot, spray tanned guy dressed as Batman with a strap on dildo.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

This year we got this lady who was posing for the cameras with her ass out.
© J // Washing Rice Blog

There are a number of stalls selling good eats and commemorative souvenirs like penis printed fabric, wooden phallus shaped bottle stoppers and centerpieces, penis eyewear, and all sorts of sexual innuendo charged keychains and office supplies for anyone looking for a new conversation starter piece at work or your next dinner party.  Even if you’re feeling shy I recommend coming away with at least one penis-themed something to commemorate your visit, because proceeds from the festival go towards AIDS research and prevention.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

Don’t worry, it’s just a little rain.
© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

The most popular thing sought after at the festival were the vagina and penis pops.  A little pricey at 700 yen ($7 USD) a lick, they made for great photo props and innuendo jokes.  The lines were crazy for these so make sure you get yours early; this year the vagina pops sold out in under an hour.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

The look on this guy’s face as he watches the woman beside him suck on her penis pop is gold.
© J // Washing Rice Blog

Before calling it a day we watched the shrine ceremony, placed 5 yen coins on a phallus-shaped collection statue that looked as if it were jizzing money, and took turns striking firestones to make sparks for purification and protection from evil spirits.  Many people also enjoyed taking photos of themselves and friends riding the two huge, wooden carved penises outside of the shrine.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

Due to the off and on rainy weather, most visitors left early and everything worth seeing finished up by around 3:00 p.m.  Technically the festival was scheduled to go on until about 4:00 p.m., so the food stalls and souvenir stands stayed open longer.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

The illustration on the bottom of the Elizabeth mikoshi.
© J // Washing Rice Blog

 

The Kanamara festival isn’t the only one of its kind.  Every March 15th in Aichi prefecture just north of Nagoya, there’s another fertility festival praising the penis called the Hōnen Matsuri.  But don’t be fooled into thinking only the penis gets some love; apparently there’s a scattering of lesser-known vagina festivals around the country as well. 😉

– J

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