A festival to fight AIDS and raise money for HIV research, it also draws couples looking for good fertility luck, a large gay/lesbian crowd and people who worship the Phallus. A group of men carrying on their shoulders a large, pink phallus and it bobs up and down to their rhythmic chants.
Sounds bizarre and interesting at the same time, well, that’s the Japanese fertility festival for you. Also known as the Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus), it takes place at the Kanamara shrine in Kawasaki in beginning of April every year. There is no shame in holding a festival about sex even at religious venues.
As the name suggests, the male reproductive organ forms the central theme of the event and it reflects everywhere; from illustrations, candies, carved vegetables to decorations etc.
How it all Started?
It started way back during Japan’s Edo period (1603-1867) when Kawasaki prostitutes use to pray for protection against sexually transmitted diseases (especially against syphilis) and also prosperity in their business. When Japan’s famous flowers bloom during spring, they would carry an image of the phallus around the streets.
With the spread of syphilis now curbed, the festival has evolved into generating money for HIV research, of course, with the fun factor as well.
A similar festival is, Honen Matsuri, celebrated to ensure bountiful harvests and plenty of offspring in the coming years –
There are transvestites parading through the streets carrying a mikoshi (portable shrine) with a humongous pink phallus on top. Age no bar, you will find, grandmas nibbling on carnal candy and replicas of sweetmeat of this stupendous phallus (seen in the above video).
Locals also carve penises out of radish, which are auctioned in the Kanamara shrine. Children and young women sit on penis-shaped seesaws for good luck and fertility blessings. In the shrine, there is also a neat display of penises carved from wood, paintings of traditionally-clad Japanese engaged in copulation.
This shows the Japanese religions and culture have not left out sexuality just like Shaivism in India. While Kanamara Matsuri makes an interesting festival.
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