Kanamara Matsuri

Kanamara Matsuri Daishi Kawasaki かなまら祭り

The Kanamara Matsuri, or 'Festival of the Steel Phallus', in Daishi, Kawasaki, is held at the Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine, popularly known as the Kanamara Jinja Shrine.

The Kanamara Festival has its roots in the pre-modern Edo era, about 250 years ago, when Kawasaki's ladies of the night instituted this celebration of the phallus both to spur business and to pray for protection from STDs. In those days the most feared was syphilis.

Kanamara Festival, Kawasaki city, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Float at the Kanamara Matsuri Parade, Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture

Today the main purpose of the festival, besides having fun, is to pray for the conception of a child, or for safe and easy childbirth. The previous preoccupation with syphilis has been replaced with a concern for AIDS, and the festival is very much part of the general AIDS awareness campaign. However, besides the initial queuing at the beginning of the festival in front of the shrine to toss a coin and say a prayer, the rest of the day is spent anything but meditatively.

Rock bands, rap, country and western line dancing, and more are mixed in with the thoroughly Japanese float parades, drumming troupes, shamisen players, and procession of dignitaries. Almost as popular as the beer stands are those selling phallic goods from key rings to candies.

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