Kanamara Matsuri: Japan Penis Festival

Japan is renowned for its rich culture and unique festivals, but one stands out for its unusual and vibrant celebrations: the Kanamara Matsuri, also known as the Penis Festival. Held annually in Kawasaki on the first Sunday of April, this festival attracts thousands of visitors from around the world (maybe not so much like lesbian porn). What makes Kanamara Matsuri so special? This article delves into the fascinating history, cultural significance, and the lively festivities that define this extraordinary event.

The Origins and Significance of Kanamara Matsuri

Kanamara Matsuri, held at Kanayama Shrine, has deep historical roots. The shrine itself is dedicated to Kanayamahiko and Kanayamahime, deities of metalwork, revered by blacksmiths and metalworkers. The festival began several hundred years ago, primarily for local sex workers who prayed for protection against sexually transmitted diseases and sought renewal. Over time, the festival evolved into a broader celebration of fertility and health.

Transformation Over the Years

Originally, the Kanamara Matsuri was a localized event. However, its focus shifted in the 1980s when the festival gained popularity for raising awareness about AIDS. This transformation expanded its reach, attracting a more diverse group of participants and international visitors. Today, the festival symbolizes hope for successful pregnancies, marriages, and overall health, making it a unique blend of sacred and playful elements.

Getting to Kanamara Matsuri

Kanamara Matsuri takes place in Kawasaki, conveniently accessible from major Tokyo stations. Visitors can reach the festival venue, Kanayama Shrine, located on the grounds of Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine, with ease. Here’s a quick guide on how to get there:

  • From Yokohama Station: Approximately a 15-20 minute ride on the Keihin Express Daishi Line.
  • From Shinjuku: Around 45-50 minutes via the JR Yamanote and Keihin Express Lines.
  • From Kawasaki-Daishi Station: A short 2-minute walk to the shrine.

Local Attractions

While attending the festival, visitors can also explore nearby attractions. Kawasaki Daishi Heikenji Temple, known for its expansive precincts, offers a serene contrast to the lively festival atmosphere. The temple is a must-visit for those interested in experiencing traditional Japanese spirituality.

Highlights of the Kanamara Matsuri

The centerpiece of Kanamara Matsuri is undoubtedly the three phallic mikoshi, or portable shrines. These shrines are carried through the streets in a joyous procession, drawing cheers and laughter from the crowd.

  • Kanamara Boat Mikoshi: This shrine features a phallus made of black iron.
  • Elizabeth Mikoshi: Donated by a drag club in Asakusabashi, this pink phallus is a vibrant symbol of the festival.
  • Kanamara Omikoshi: The oldest shrine, made of wood, showcasing the festival’s historical roots.

Unique Souvenirs and Food

Visitors can indulge in a variety of themed merchandise and food that adds to the festive spirit. Souvenirs range from phallic candles and candies to quirky hand towels and toys. Food items, including phallus-shaped daikon radishes, are popular among festival-goers, making for great icebreakers and conversation starters.

Tips for Attending Kanamara Matsuri

Best Time to Arrive

To fully enjoy the Kanamara Matsuri, it’s advisable to arrive early. The festival starts in the morning, and arriving ahead of time ensures a good spot to witness the procession of the mikoshi and participate in various activities.

What to Wear?

Comfortable clothing and footwear are essential, as the festival involves a lot of walking and standing. Given the large crowds, it is also a good idea to keep personal belongings secure.

Photography Etiquette

While photography is allowed, it’s important to be mindful of others. Avoid obstructing the view and ask for permission before taking pictures of individuals. Capturing the vibrant atmosphere and unique aspects of the festival respectfully ensures a pleasant experience for everyone.


Kanamara Matsuri stands out as one of Japan’s most unique and captivating festivals. With its blend of historical significance, cultural richness, and vibrant celebrations, it offers an unparalleled experience for visitors. From the intriguing origins and the procession of phallic shrines to the lively atmosphere and cultural sensitivity, the festival is a testament to Japan’s ability to honor tradition while embracing modernity.

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