You say festival, you think Glastonbury. Glitter on your face, flowers in your hair and booze on your breath. Unless you are in Japan in April, in which case your first thought is probably about giant penises.
The exact dates vary: the main festivities fall on the first Sunday in April. The phallusas the central theme of the event, is reflected in illustrations, candy, carved vegetables, decorations, and a mikoshi parade. The Kanamara Matsuri is centered on a local penis -venerating shrine.
Thankfully the local blacksmith forged a cure in the form of an iron dildo. The shrine remains dedicated to this blacksmith to this day. After the parade, everyone gathers to enjoy street food, contests, and general sexual-themed merriment. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of Atlas Obscura in your inbox.
An event in Kawasaki, Japan, aroused lots of interest last weekend. Kanamara Matsuriaka the Festival of the Steel Phallus, has been a spring tradition since US Edition U.
Every year, on the first Sunday of April, thousands of people line the streets of the Japanese city of Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, to celebrate the male genitalia. Festival goers indulge in colorful penis-shaped food and memorabilia as portable shrines of three giant phalluses are paraded through the city. There's a black steel phallus, a brown wooden phallus and a bright pink phallus known as "Elizabeth," after the name of a popular Tokyo cross-dressing club that donated the giant sculpture, which is traditionally carried by people in drag.
Held this year on April 6, the festival is a celebration of the penis and fertility. People parade gigantic phallic-shaped mikoshi portable Shinto shrines down the streets during the event, as revelers suck on penis lollipops, buy penis-themed memorabilia and pose with sculptures in the shape of -- you guessed it -- penises. According to the BBC, the festival is believed to have roots in the 17th centurywhen prostitutes are said to have prayed for protection from sexually transmitted infections at Kawasaki's Kanamara shrine.
Selena Hoy joins the crowd. For centuries, Kanayama has been a place where couples pray for fertility and marital harmony; during the Edo era, from the 17th to 19th centuries, sex workers would come and pray to be rid of the STIs that they picked up in the course of the job. There was even a festival revolving around fertility and sexual health during those times — but the tradition was lost in the late s. In the s, then-chief priest Hirohiko Nakamura decided to resurrect it.
The fertility festival originated from prostitutes who prayed to the Kanaymara Shrine - an iron phallus - for good business and protection from sexually transmitted diseases. But nowadays festival-goers celebrate the phallic shrine for fertility, good relationships and safe sex practices, as well as business and family prosperity. Revellers also head to the festival to celebrate healthy childbirth and harmony between married couples.