Kanamara Festival – Penis Festival

April 6, 2014 Juju Kurihara 1 Comment

Many people think Japanese culture is either very serious or crazy. I see blogs where westerners write their experiences in Japan in the sense of, “Look, crazy!”, “Wow, that´s strange!”. But then they don´t really explain what they are doing or why they are doing it. Perhaps it´s not so important for some people.


The festival held todaykanamaramatsuri 1 maybe one of those “crazy” events in Japan. It was to me first time I saw it in the news. Kanamara Festival (Kanamara matsuri/ かなまら祭り), in an easy way to understand, Penis Festival. Yes, it´s an event that men´s genital everywhere.  Shocking, I must say. A huge pink penis on the potable shrine (Elizabeth Mikoshi) is carried around the town of Kawasaki by female carriers is simply weird.


But this is an actually serious festival, which started in Edo period by Meshimori-onna (飯盛女) who were the maids in the inns in Kawasaki but often engaged in prostitution. Once a year those women went to the shrine and prayed for not getting a venereal disease or a good business. Now this event is held for a good business, prosperity of descendants, an easy delivery, finding a good partner, happy marriage. Recently it became internationally popular for preventing AIDS and many tourists come to see it.     


kanamaramatsuri 2

By the way, the name Kanamara, Mara (摩羅) is a jargon for monks and means men´s genital.  It´s interesting that the monks have a special word for it. 


Anyway, the festival looks very chaotic. There are so many people come to see the penises and there are many around. Not only those symbols but also so many products related to men´s genital, candies, chocolate, T-shirts, candles, lucky charms or any other things. Many girls want to mount on the huge wooden penis statue and take photos.



kanamaramatsuri 4




Kanayama Jinja (金山神社) is also known as the god of blacksmith as well as the god of sex. It´s said in Japanese mythology that when Izanami-no-Mikoto gave birth to the god of fire, the god Kanamara (of Kanayama Jinja) healed her burn. This is why the shrine worship both sex and blacksmith gods. During the festival, you can also see the ceremony of the blacksmith, which is also as spectacular as penis party.   





kanamaramatsuri 3It´s interesting to see this festival. Japanese society is still conservative comparing to the western world. In the last 10 years, you see more young couples walk on the street holding hands. But still you don´t see couple hugging or kissing in the public space. Then at the same time, you see pornographic comics, magazines or small posters for sex shops everywhere. I haven´t seen so many pornographic images in public in any part of Europe. Japanese people don´t talk about sex so openly with friends as people to do in the West. When you see people in Kanamara Matsuri, you may notice people are relaxed. That´s because Japanese people grow up being taught sex is something ashamed of. We don´t talk about it but sex is everywhere. I´m not a psychiatrist but I could imagine that living in this dilemma gives people twisted idea about sex. Why so many Chikan (痴漢/molester) in the trains in Japan but not in the western society? Can we shift dirty, dark and embarrassing image of sex into love?


kanamaramatsuri 5

Perhaps this festival is a relief for Japanese people. This gives people an opportunity to think sex is just a part of our life and nothing to ashamed of. If this event became integrated with the daily life (without these massive men´s genitals strolling on the street), we had much less perverts in the public space and especially schoolgirls wouldn´t need to suffer from them.       

At the end, Kanamara Festival isn´t just an erotic crazy event but is to encourage Japanese people to have cleaner image about sex. Well, let´s hope… 


Video from 2013. 


This is the ceremony of the blacksmith.



More Japanese annual festivals

Oose Matsuri

Happy Easter

Summer festivals


Seijin no Hi



Momono Sekku

3rd of February

1 Comment

  1. Japan is one of the many countries across the world, where the Male and Female genitalia are either worshiped or paid homage to, however the most of these religions have been destroyed or at least made smaller by westerners, claiming that they knew better, and that these practices were barbaric.

    Post dark-age Europe, with the full backup from the Roman Catholic Church, went on a rampage against pagan religions, as a threat to Christianity- and used the pagan beliefs in the wonders of sexuality, as being evil, even to the point that many priests were preaching that women should be virgins, even after marriage, and the act of sex was the work of the devil (all while the biggest patrons of local brothels were the local priests lol).

    Previous to western intervention into Japan, sexuality was an open affair-

    In the Pre-Meiji Japan, many Japanese men would enter into a woman’s room at night, and if the woman lets him in, they were considered “engaged”. Also this was a method where many couples would test their sexual compatibility. Many small towns across Japan would get past the problem of young men not being able to “preform”, by holding festivals (much like the festival in this article) where young men (or women in some areas) experienced sex by an older mate in the village. Other villages would hold events were unmarried men and women were placed in the local temple or shire, after a heavy meal and alcohol night, and many couples were born as a result of this.

    In the Edo era, it was natural for women to bathe in a large wooden container knows as a tarai (often used to wash everything from clothes to dishes), wearing nothing more than a simple koshimaki or loin cloth. Many of the major bath houses in the cities shared the same bath area for men and women, with only a different area for each sex to get dressed.

    With the opening of Japan, and the Japanese wanting to become part of the “modern world”, the Japanese government forced many of the Japanese to stop many of these “barbaric” customs, those customs where foreigners would say is “strange” or “evil”.

    After Japan feel under US control after WWII, these “western ideals” of prudism, were drilled further home, by many of the US military and their wives, who worked hard to “bring Japan into the modern world”, and started teaching the publish the evil of sexuality.

    With the growth of foreign population, prudish ideal have also grown in Japan through the educational system, creating a moral conflict within the minds of many Japanese. While many Japanese schools were very strict in relationships pre-WWII, and it was considered “evil” for men and women to “be alone” the newly appointed teachers helped to build a belief that “schools are for studying, and it is the job of the students to study, and not be wasting their time on relationships with the other sex”.

    Of course, this helped increase the sexual frustration of the younger generation, especially when they started to get access to western literature and movies, where high schoolers actually kissed in public!

    Of course, if there is repress sexuality, there will always be a market, hence the pronographic manga, magazines, and movies in Japan. (I not sure where the author has traveled in Europe, however I personally have seen very graphic adult stores in Amsterdam, and London, as well as adult magazines at the KIOSK in the UK and Paris- so its not just Japan)

    One last point that I feel that I must say, is that the prudish ideals of western society have really damage many cultural aspects in Japan, where it has gotten to the point that a teenage mother, wearing a school uniform, was chastised by a Japanese woman for breastfeeding a crying child in a public bus, as well as for being a highschool aged mother. Also there was a movement in the 80’s and 90’s, where several municipalities were trying to make it illegal for mothers to breastfeed in public.

    So, I personally feel that it is a very vocal west, who can’t get over their complex toward sexuality.

    Just my two cents 😉

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