Celebrants and tourists alike enjoy games and delightfully shaped snacks at Kanamara Matsuri, a Shinto penis festival that honors fertility and prosperity.
There are thousands of Shinto shrines around Japan, however one has a rather interesting traditional festival: Kanamara Matsuri. The name translates to “Metal Penis Festival”, and is held each year on the first Sunday of April at the Kanayama-Jinja Shinto Shrine. The shrine hosts games, festivities, and fun snacks that anyone can enjoy that day. A wide array of phallic edibles that are meant to celebrate sex, life, and fertility are served to smiling customers.
The Legends of the Kanamara Matsuri
One legend of the festival claims that a sharp-toothed demon, a vagina dentata, hid within the vagina of a young woman. The beast ate her husband’s penis on their wedding night, which must have come as quite a shock. To destroy the demon, the young lady asked a blacksmith to create a metal penis, which would break the demon’s sharp teeth. The metal penis was then enshrined. Another legend tells the story of the goddess Izanami no Mikoto who suffered significant injuries after birthing a fire god. Gods of mining and blacksmiths, Kanayamahiko-no-Kami and Kanayamahime-no-Kami, helped heal her. Because of this, many pray to these gods for protection from venereal diseases and birth complications.
Kanamara Matsuri Penis Festival
In the past, people prayed to the Kanamara spirit in the night. They prayed for a wide range of blessings. Couples asked for children, mothers asked for easy births. Others prayed for harmony or peace, prosperity, and fertility. Prostitutes prayed to avoid contracting STDs. The festival didn’t begin until 1975, and didn’t hit its stride until the 80’s. The festival now sees thousands of attendees, from children and teens to parents and tourists. The festivities for this celebration are similar to others, except they feature significantly more penises and phallic symbols. The march starts off with people lifting the portable shrine, decorated with a wooden penis in front and a phallic shape below the roof, on their shoulders. They lead the progression, closely followed by two giant penis shrines wrapped in Shinto ropes. The first is a black penis shrine, crafted from steel and carried by those wearing festival gear. The second is pink, known as Elizabeth and carried by local cross dressers. Those following or looking on shout out: “Big penis! Metal penis!” Hisashi Yamamoto, who has always been the master of ceremonies, had this to say in his speech: “The fact that you are alive and here, that’s the core of the Kanamara festival. We need to give thanks for having been brought into the world – for being alive! And for sex!”