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  • Juju Kurihara

Kanamara Festival - Penis Festival

Updated: May 10, 2023

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 today

kanamaramatsuri 1

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.

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.

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 3

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...

This is the ceremony of the blacksmith.

More Japanese annual festivals


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