The Shinto Kanamara Matsuri—aka the Festival of the Steel Phallus—is held each spring at the Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki, Japan, on the first Sunday of April.
The shrine is the destination at which to pray against sexual diseases, or to pray for fertility (depending on which you want, I guess). The festival is based on a 17th-century story of a nasty sharp-toothed demon who fell in love with a woman who spurned him. The demon got mad and developed a bad habit of castrating the woman’s boyfriends with his teeth. Frustrated, she had a large steel phallus made by a local blacksmith which broke the demon’s teeth, stopping him, and saving her from a lifetime of endless cartons of Ben and Jerry’s.
The parade and current festival began in 1977 and has grown over the years to include a couple of other penises, food booth vendors on the shrine grounds, penis-themed items to purchase, and lots of photo ops.
The shrine is located just a few blocks from the train station with lots of local vendors selling homemade rice crackers, candies, and gift items leading up to it. During the festival there is also an added grouping of local food vendors selling not only the typical festival food—like meats on sticks, fried noodles, baked potatoes, and cans of beer—but a lot of others I’d not seen before, such as fried wontons on sticks and fried tofu dishes. All were tasty or looked tasty.
A few blocks over is the park area where the tables selling penis items are set up and where the parade ends. All sales on these items go to various organizations—HIV research and other good things. The crowd here wasn’t too bad at first, but it got really crowded the closer to the parade it got and immediately after.
The parade—which is really just a procession of three penises and some people waving fans and flags for a couple of blocks—started at around noon and ended at the park. Once the parade ended, a lot of people made their way back to the shrine area and the food booth area got way too crowded.
We had arrived around 11am, ate food, then walked over to the park to see the parade. Afterwards, we walked back to the shrine area but it was so crazy by then, we left.
I loved how everyone, including little kids were sucking on penis pops. In America everyone would be way too uptight.