Kanamara Matsuri: Festival of Steel Phallus

Warning: Some of the images might be deem inappropriate and not suitable for minors. Please don’t click the “Report as Mature” button. This is a real cultural festival in the Land of the Rising Sun and as a blogger, it is my intention to present to you the events and places around- no more, no less.

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The usually quiet, industrial neighborhood of Kawasaki has its fair share of visitors every first Sunday of April, where the ratio of foreign visitors out proportioned the locals. I can understand, loud and clear inside the train, the sense of anticipation among the foreign visitors who cannot hide their excitement to witness of what everyone expect to be as one of the oddest festival in the world.

Referred to as Kanamara Matsuri or Festival of Steel Phallus, held last 1st of April, is definitely one unconventional celebration. It’s not an April fools’ joke to see a huge pink penis replica floating around and  to see some girls or even boys licking a manhood shaped Popsicle in the streets.

Before you assume how x-rated this blog post is, let me explain to you what the festival is all about.

Kanamara Matsuri is a Shinto celebration at Kanayama Shrine, which is historically popular among prostitutes who prayed for protection against sexually transmitted disease. Over the course of year, the prayers and wishes offered at the shrine has grown to include easy child birth delivery, harmony on marriage, business success and fertility for those trying to have kids. Since the festival is attracting much foreign visitors, the celebration is now used as a way of raising funds for HIV research.

The festival main event is the parade of the steel phallus along the streets of Kawasaki. The waving of the flag marks the start of the procession, followed by the shrine priest and his entourage. Carrying the steel phallus are men wearing traditional clothes, while the one that usually draws wild attention is the pink penis replica carried by women while chanting “dekachin, dekachin, dekachin” which translates to what is already obvious- huge penis.

Setting aside for a while the festival cultural background and good intentions, allow me to present to you some colorful individuals and things that are hardly unmissable if you decide to roam around.

I agree that it might be weird to see a group of women chanting “dekachin” or such a blatant display of affection towards the male private parts but what I don’t agree is a display of arrogance among Western “boys” who think that the festival is nothing but cool and funny. These are men who are holding a bottle of beer in one hand  and a Popsicle shaped to what might be bigger than what they have on the other, chanting some ridiculous words and waiting for people to laugh along with them. Well, no one thought they were funny.

Among all the crazy going around, it is easy to spot couples who brave the day and went there with serious intention- for the gods to grant them fertility and the chance to have a baby. I personally knew couples whose unwavering desire to have a bundle of joy will attend such festivity. I can only imagine how hard it must be to pray and asked for one thing that you badly wanted, when everyone around you is either drunk or just extremely happy to embrace the phallus statue for photo opportunity.

After spending less than an hour, I decided to leave the festival and visit the nearby Kawasaki Daishi Temple for a more relaxed afternoon.  The walk towards the temple is an interesting one; you will be enticed to check out daruma dolls sold in every size or the competing sweet shops where you can hear the sound of the knife and the chopping board as the master chef cuts fresh dough. Over-all, the temple ground of Kawasaki Daishi is quite similar to the one in Asakusa, with one noticeable exception in terms of religious practice- a small statue in the middle where believers are pouring water over it.

What do you think of the Kanamara Festival? Is it weird or what? Sounds off below. Be kind with your comments.

18 thoughts on “Kanamara Matsuri: Festival of Steel Phallus

  1. With a forewarning like that, I had to take a look! Very interesting indeed … great photos! I’m sure there’s a book out already on national festivals, but I have always thought of compiling what are the more interesting festivals world-wide, (and maybe go to them!), and this is definitely one of them! I do agree that it is sad that these attract the foreigners/tourists, and for the wrong reasons. One can only hope that they learn to respect the culture and traditions of others.
    Thanks also for liking my blogpost!

    1. that’s a another reason to visit a country apart from the usual tourist area:)
      thanks for liking this post!

  2. Great post and photos. It’s interesting how the phallus is so significant in quite a few Eastern cultures!

  3. I been wanting to attend this festival for a long time. I got married a few months ago and I’m moving to Japan this year (my husband is Japanese) and we would love to go to the Shrine and ask the Kami for prosperity in our marriage. I’m sure my husband and I will attend next year!
    Great post and great pictures too!

    1. Hi Eloisa,

      Super sorry for this very very late reply.
      Have you move to Japan already? I’m pretty sure you will have a grand time, I’m so excited for you :)
      I bet your weekends will be filled with endless shrine/temple visits and it doesn’t even matter that they look almost the same, you will never get tired of admiring them.

      All the best to you and your husband.

      Orchid

  4. Stupendous post one on a kind festival.Thank you for liking my post.jalal

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