Kanamara Matsuri - The Japanese Fertility Festival started in 1977. It was a small festival at the start, but it became bigger and bigger. Today, the festival is extremely popular among tourists and is used to raise money for HIV research.
Matsuri Festival is centered on a local penis-venerating shrine. The legend says that a jealous sharp-toothed demon hid inside the vagina of a young woman the demon fell in love with and bit off penises of two young men on their wedding nights.
After that, the young woman asked a blacksmith for help. The blacksmith has made an iron phallus to break the demon’s teeth, which led to the enshrinement of that item.
The Kanayama Shrine is famous as a site for prostitutes to pray for protection against diseases. Today, the shrine is said to aid fertility and is often visited by married couples hoping to start a family.
The Japanese Fertility Festival or Kanamara Matsuri is an ancient tradition that serves as a celebration and a prayer for fertility, marriages and to promote awareness about sexually transmitted diseases.
During the Kanamara Matsuri Festival both, men and women dress in women’s kimonos and yes, it is common to see grandmothers licking penis-shaped lollipops.
Kanamara Matsuri Parade
The Saturday evening prior to the festival, rice treats in the shape of the yin and yang are grilled for everyone. At 11 AM the next morning, a great bonfire is started which represents the official beginning of the festival.
The highlight of the Matsuri festival is the tree large phallic portable shrines that are carried throughout the street in a parade from around noon.
Kanamara Fune Mikoshi is a steel penis in a ship, which represents the steel phallus from the legend.
The Big Kanamara Mikoshi is a wooden penis where a Shinto ritual is performed to transfer the Gods from the shrine to the portable one through the streets.
Omikoshi, a giant pink penis altar, known as “Elizabeth” is one of the most popular attractions during the Kanamara Matsuri. The altar was donated to the festival by Tokyo drag queen club Elizabeth Kaikan. It is carried through the streets by transgender festival participants.
During the Matsuri festival, there is everything dedicated to the penis. So, expect to see a lot of penis hats, penis puppets, penis costumes, penis lollipops, and many other interesting things as well. Penis icons are presented in all sizes and shapes, made mostly from iron, wood, and inflatable plastic.
While in many Western cultures, this kind of festival seems quite wired or even offensive, many would argue that the openness of the festival is healthy, and it celebrates the ability to reproduce and grow.
Many Japanese visit the Festival of the Steel Phallus with their own children without “sexualizing” the event in any viable way. So, why not to experience something new and embrace sexuality by celebrating the life-creating cycle of a human.