Every spring, a fertility festival called Kanamara Matsuri — which directly translates to “Festival of the Steel Phallus” but is colloquially referred to as the Japanese Penis Festival — makes its way to Japan’s Kawasaki prefecture, located not far outside of Tokyo. This year the festival will take place on Sunday, April 7, and here’s everything you need to know about the outlandish tradition.
The main festivities for the Japanese Penis Festival typically take place on the first Sunday of April at the Kanayama Shrine, which is itself a local shrine dedicated to venerating the penis (but which also offers divine protection for things like prosperity in business and family, and happiness in one’s marriage).
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Kanamara Matsuri, which first began in 1969. These days the festival raises money for HIV research.
The legend behind the Japanese Penis Festival is quite interesting, and more odd than you could have possibly imagined:
A jealous, sharp-toothed demon hid inside the vagina of a young woman the demon had fallen in love with, and the demon bit off the penises of two young men on their wedding nights. So the woman went to a blacksmith, who created for her an iron phallus. When the demon bit down on it, its teeth were broken and the woman’s fertility was restored.
Along with the spirit of the legend’s blacksmith, that iron phallus is now enshrined in the temple, and during Kanamara Matsuri it’s brought out and paraded through the area, with tens of thousands of people in attendance. On the day of the festival, a giant pink penis and a giant black penis will be carted through the prefecture on mikoshi floats carried on worshippers’ shoulders.
On the day of Kanamara Matsuri, there will be everything from a fire lighting ceremony that kicks things off to performances rounding out the day’s end. The parade itself will take place between 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
The Japanese Penis Festival is also notorious for its penis-shaped novelties; everything from penis-shaped candies to phallic accessories will be sold, along with something new just for this year’s fest: a Kanayama Shrine Goshuincho, which is a souvenir booklet wherein you collect seals from the various shrines and temples located across the country.
The special Goshuincho will only be available for purchase the day of Kanamara Matsuri from the Kanayama Shrine between 10 a.m.–4 p.m. It’s sure to become a collector’s item, so if you want to purchase one for yourself, come prepared.
There’s no festival on Earth quite like Kanamara Matsuri, the Japanese Penis Festival, and the fact that it raises funds for a good cause makes it all the more amazing.