The Kanamara Festival (かなまら祭り) is held on the first Sunday in April every year at the Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki, Japan. The shrine is just a three-minute walk from Kawasaki-Daishi Station on the Keikyu-Daishi Line.
The festival centers around penises, which appear everywhere, as candy, on hats, and on clothing. Phallic-shaped objects or anything which has to do with sex are sold all around the shrine.
In recent years, the festival has gained popularity among foreign residents in Japan, who flock to the festival in great numbers to see the penis-shaped objects. Don’t be surprised if half of the people you see are foreign. The staff are very friendly and can speak basic English.
This fellow greets visitors as they enter the shrine.
He’s a literal dick-head. As I posed for a picture with him, he whispered into my ear. “You’re cute. I love your freckles. Can I take you out to dinner?”
“No, thank you,” was my reply.
As the beer and the chu-hi started to flow, things got a little wild at the festival.
Despite the blatant sexual objects and the hilarity of it all, the festival has a much deeper meaning than just large penises being waved around with the cheery blooms in the background. Kanamara Shrine has long been a place for prostitutes to go pray for protection against sexually transmitted diseases and prosperity in business. In addition, people visit the shrine to pray for easy childbirth, marriage, and matrimonial harmony.
Legend has it that a demon hid in the vagina of a young woman. On her wedding nights, both of her husbands had their penises bitten off, in a fashion reminiscent of a scene from Teeth. Determined to ensure that her third marriage was a charm, she sought the services of a blacksmith who fashioned an iron penis, which broke the demon’s teeth. The iron phallus is enshrined here.
The festival now serves as a way to raise awareness and funds for AIDs. All the proceeds from the sales as the festival go toward HIV research or other charitable causes such as the reconstruction for the 2011 earthquake.
The most popular objects sold at the festival are the large penis and vagina-shaped lollipops, which visitors suck and slurp on as they walk around. The crowds around the lollipop stands are thick, and the sweets usually sell out by mid-afternoon.
The highlight of the festival is the parade of portable shrines called mikoshi (神輿), which contain large phalluses. As the mikoshi head through the shrine gates, they bob up and down in a rhythmic movement. “The way they move is interesting,” remarked one visitor standing next to me.
The large, pink penis was pulled by transvestite women.
Here a Shinto priest prays and bows to one of the iron penises enshrined in the mikoshi. Many visitors pay their respects at the shrine.
In addition to penis-shaped objects everywhere, there is an abundance of little children.
All in all, the Kanamara Festival is an event where people show their love for the penis. Although Japan may blur out the genital parts in pornography, this country has an open attitude when it comes to sex.