Kanamara Matsuri (Penis Festival)

A festival where size matters

The Kawasaki Kanamara Festival, held on the first Sunday of April, is one of the most crowded spring festivals in japan. It is a unique and lively event that celebrates fertility and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. The highlight of the festival is the procession of three phallic portable shrines, which are cheerfully carried by participants. The festival also features a variety of phallus-themed merchandise and food, making it a truly one-of-a-kind experience.

The origin of the Kanamara Festival dates back several hundred years. Originally, the festival was a gathering for local sex workers to pray for protection from diseases and for renewal. It was believed that by praying to the deities of metalwork at Kanayama Shrine, they would be granted protection and good fortune. Over time, the festival has evolved into a more general fertility rite, attracting people from all walks of life who wish for successful pregnancy and marriage.

The festival is also known as the Utamaro Matsuri, in reference to Kitagawa Utamaro, a famous artist known for his erotic works. The name “Kanamara” itself is a euphemism for male genitalia, with “mara” originally meaning an “obstacle to Buddhist practice.” This playful and humorous aspect of the festival adds to its unique charm.

Today, the Kanamara Festival is not only a celebration of fertility but also a symbol of the fight against HIV. In the 1980s, as the AIDS epidemic spread, worshippers began coming to the festival in hopes of warding off the disease. This marked a turning point in the festival’s popularity, as it gained recognition outside of the local area and became a symbol of solidarity and support.

The festival takes place at Kanayama Shrine, located on the grounds of Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine in Kawasaki. Getting to the festival is relatively easy, as Kawasaki is just a short train ride from major Tokyo stations. Kawasaki-Daishi Station, which is a 2-minute walk from the shrine, can be reached in about 15-20 minutes from Yokohama Station and 45-50 minutes from Shinjuku on the JR Yamanote and Keihin Express Lines.

The Kanamara Matsuri is not only a celebration of fertility and protection but also a unique cultural experience. The highlight of the festival is the trio of outlandish erect phalluses carried on portable shrines. The Kanamara Boat Mikoshi, made of black iron, is a sight to behold. The “Elizabeth,” a pink shaft donated by a drag club in Asakusabashi, adds a touch of whimsy to the festival. The oldest of the three, the Kanamara Omikoshi, made of wood, is a symbol of the festival’s historical roots.

In addition to the phallic portable shrines, the festival also offers a wide range of themed merchandise. Visitors can find phallic candles in assorted colors, phallic candies, funky hand towels, and a host of toys, knickknacks, and accessories. For those with a sense of humor, there are even food items in the shape of phalluses, such as carved daikon radishes.

While the Kanamara Matsuri may be seen as a step apart from ordinary life in Japan, it is important to remember that the festival has a sacred side as well. The organizers emphasize that the law still applies, and security guards are present to ensure that there are no instances of lewdness, harassment, or other inappropriate behavior. It is crucial to respect the cultural significance of the festival while enjoying the festivities.

While in the neighborhood, visitors can also stop by Kawasaki Daishi Heikenji Temple’s expansive precincts. This temple, located nearby, offers a serene and peaceful atmosphere where visitors can further immerse themselves in the local culture and traditions.

In conclusion, the Kawasaki Kanamara Festival is a grand and lively celebration of fertility, protection, and solidarity. What began as a gathering for sex workers to pray for protection has evolved into a festival that attracts people from all over the world. The festival’s unique and playful nature, combined with its historical background and cultural significance, make it a must-visit event for those seeking a truly unforgettable experience in Japan. So why not join in the festivities and celebrate the power of life and love at the Kawasaki Kanamara Festival?

Address And Maps Location:

2-13-16 Daishi Ekimae, Kawasaki-ku, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa-ken

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