Kanamara Matsuri…festival of the steel phallus?

‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe, catch the wind in your sails – explore, dream, discover’. – Unknown

(I really struggled to find a fitting quote).

***Before you go any further some of the content below may not be deemed appropriate for certain audiences so if you are under 18 then please ask a guardian***

Kanamara Matsuri or translated ‘festival of the steel phallus’ is a festival that takes place once a year and is a sight like no other. The festival takes place at the Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki, japan. It is definitely a novelty but the story behind the festival is rather interesting and surprising. So with a little help from google search I was able to read up on what I was getting myself into before I ventured there.


‘The phallus, as a central theme of the event, is reflected in illustration, candy, carved vegetables, decorations and a Mikoshi parade.

The Kanamara Matsuri is centred on a local penis-venerating shrine. The legend being that a jealous sharp toothed demon hid inside the vagina of a young woman that the demon fell in love with and bit off the penises of two young men on their wedding nights. After that the woman sought help from a blacksmith, who fashioned an iron phallus to break the demons teeth, which lead to the enshrinement of the item.

The Kanayama shrine was popular among prostitutes who wished to pray for protection from STI’s. It was also said that the shrine offers divine protections for business prosperity and for the clans prosperity; and for easy delivery, marriage and married couple harmony.

The festival started in 1969. Today the festival has become something of a tourist attraction and is used to raise money for HIV research’.

It’s very hard to take the event seriously when everywhere you turn people are sucking on penis shaped lollies or watching the parade where a huge penis shrine is carried through the crowds but it is definitely a worthy cause and some fun at the same time. This festival is better explained through pictures and so I have included a few from the day at the bottom.

Aside from all of the penis themed attractions you can take a walk through the crowded shrine area and make your way through the maze of different street venders. All the different sights and smells will overwhelm your senses and you shall want to try a little bit of everything. I personally decided to try Takoyaki which is a ball-shaped snack made of a batter and cooked in a special moulded pan. It is typically filled with diced octopus (tako) which was a first for me. It is covered in sauce and Bonito, which add to the overall interesting texture and taste of this classic snack. I very much enjoyed the powerful taste of something so new to me and will definitely have it again.

Enjoy the photos and check out my Instagram @theworldaccordingtotaz

Until next time



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