The Japanese penis festival: Celebrating phalluses every year

Alice Sholl
Fancy a visit? [Photo: Instagram/dj_ank77]

If talking about sex in public makes you go red, you might want to look away.

Over in Japan, far from being a taboo topic, penises are celebrated during an annual event – giving the genital organ the honour it deserves.

The ‘Shinto Kanamara Matsuri’, or Festival of the Steel Phallus, isn’t unlike your average street celebration – only instead of floats you’d typically expect at a parade, they’re giant pink penises being walked past instead.

Along with people sucking on penis-shaped lollipops, penis-themed songs being played, and genitalia-carving competitions taking place.

Each spring – usually the first Sunday of April – in Kawasaki, Japan, festivities centre around the Kanayama Shrine, a small place of worship enshrining the legendary Emperor Nintoku.

Apparently, the stories said to influence the day’s introduction vary – but one is that of a woman who had a demon living in her vagina which bit the penises off two of her newlywed husbands (ever seen the film Teeth?)

To beat the demon, she eventually called upon help from a blacksmith, who made a steel penis. The demon bit down on it and broke its teeth, defeated.

And historically, Kawasaki also used to be a stop-off point for travellers, and the shrine is said to have been visited by prostitutes praying for protection from venereal diseases.

Either way, we’re talking about a pretty sex-positive shrine here.

And right up until the present day, this and the festival are strongly connected to promoting fertility, health and happiness.

In practical ways as well as simply hosting a big party in celebration of it all, too; the shrine donates proceeds collected at the festival to HIV/AIDs research.

It’s also an important chance for members of the LBGTQ community to show their pride publicly in an otherwise conservative Japan; as a visitor to the festival on blog site Tofugu noted, one year the most iconic statue carried around – a big pink penis called Elizabeth – was donated by a drag queen club and carried by transgender people.

So it’s more than just a load of penis-themed things flying around (though admittedly, that’s a pretty big part of it).

What do you think about Japan’s annual penis festival? Tweet us at @YahooStyleUK.

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