A NSFW Post: Kanamara Matsuri: Festival of the Steel Penis

 Japan is known for its prim and proper etiquette, with polite gestures and sayings seemingly taking up half of the conversation and mannerisms. But the country is open about its sexuality and fairly non-judgemental, something I think is much healthier than many Americans' fears of seeing nudity (or worse! Bondage or spanking!). As you can see above, Japanese people have lots of fetishes and in fact the country is now known for several of the oddities in the world of sex today. And while the average Japanese person probably just wants good old vanilla sex, there are tons of "adult" stores all over the country. This is a good thing, in my mind.

Sex is ultimately private, like everything else in Japan - even the windows of barber shops are frosted. Love Hotels exist to provide a place for couples to make noise without disturbing the neighbors. (Unfortunately, Japan has moved to close down or hide a lot of the best institutions because Westerners talk about it. Perhaps they'll realize it is the quirkiness of modern Japan that probably brings half of its tourists and stop being ashamed of its subcultures... Anyway, I digress.
  Sex may be private, but religion is pretty visible. There are a few fertility shrines still standing in Japan, one of which is in Kawasaki, between Yokohama and Tokyo. The first weekend in April brings thousands and thousands of foreigners and Japanese citizens to experience the Kanamara Matsuri, which translates as the Festival of the Steel Penis. Here is the legend. Does this sound like a certain horror movie?
The Legend of Kanamara-samaOnce upon a time, but in a land not very far away if you happen to live in Tokyo, there lived a beautiful innkeeper's daughter. Alas, an evil demon with sharp teeth had taken a liking to her. The demon had courted the girl, but she had stayed pure, and one day the demon learned that the girl was engaged to be married the very next day. So that night, the demon snuck into her house and crawled right up inside her! Our heroine, terrified but helpless, told no-one and the marriage ceremony went ahead as planned... but on the night of the wedding, when her new husband tried to perform his conjugal duties for the first time, the demon's sharp teeth went snickety-snack! and the poor man was turned into a eunuch. And the tale tells us that her next husband met the same fate, although the details of how they conned the village idiot into marrying her have not passed down to us.
It was clear that things could not go on like this, and the whole village met to discuss the, shall we say, prickly issue. After extensive deliberations, a candle lit up over the blacksmith's head: "Why not," he said, "why not deflower the girl with an iron phallus?" The metal tool was duly made and tested, and upon chomping down the demon found that it had bitten off more than it could chew; whimpering, it crawled out and slunk off to hide in a dark corner and nurse its broken teeth. The blacksmith married the girl and they all lived happily ever after... except the demon and the two eunuchs, that is.
 There are three portable shrines in the parade, marched up and down the streets around Wakamiya Hachiman-gu Shrine. One is seen above. And yes, that is what you think it is.
 You see, the god enshrined here is Kanamara-sama, Iron Big Penis Lord. So you'll see, well, penis. Penis shrines, penis glasses...
 The pink penis is the second one in the parade, much more visible in the sun. I think it's the largest.


 The pink penis shrine is carried by a group of transvestites; as you saw in the first picture guys-as-girls (called "new half" in Japanese) is fairly common.
 The last shrine is the oldest.

 Things get started pretty early on, but the shrine parade happens at 1pm. The streets are absolutely packed with tourists and worshippers. You will see tons of foreigners, due to its location and infamy.
 The shrine isn't too far from the station, and there are souvenir and food stands all over the place. Those girls have a big woody, though I don't remember what its purpose was.
 As I mentioned, there are lots of souvenirs. You can get little charms and knickknacks, or a towel with sex positions.
 The shrine grounds will be quite packed, too. It's a small shrine and most of the time I'm sure it isn't too busy.
 The shrine also has a sex museum.
 Admission is free but you can leave donations.
 Besides the parade, while you're here you can get your picture taken with a large penis. I think this is out front all of the time.
 Most people were making strange poses. No, I'm not in any of these photos. I'm not proud of the one with me in it. And that's all I'll say about it.
 As you see in my photos, people are everywhere. You really should be prepared for the crowds. And bring some money and be prepared to wait a while for one more souvenir:
 Candy. These ones are shaped like a lady's bits. Apparently they are in shorter supply and sell out fast, though last year I saw them in the afternoon.
 I'm not sure what this little parade was for, but I saw a few other processions in the afternoon.
 The number one souvenir from the festival is the candy. It's a boiled candy popsicle.
I was invited to go with a couple lady friends and they enjoyed the novelty of their popsicles, though they said they don't taste that great. I don't know how long they'd last as a souvenir on a shelf.

As I mentioned before, Kanamara Matsuri is held on the first Sunday of April, with the parade at 1 PM; festivities actually begin the night before, and a bonfire is lit somewhere at 11 AM. Kawasaki Daishi station is where all the action is, and the shrine is across the main street from the station, taking the second road from the right. There's a hospital on the corner, visible from the station; the shrine is behind that.

2 comments:

  1. As usual... very cool post!

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  2. Thanks Fuji! My foreign coworker is going this weekend with a bunch of his foreign friends.

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