Kanamara Matsuri (かなまら祭り “Festival of the Steel Phallus”?

Since the moment, I finished my work, I had been excited to go to the Kanamara Matsuri. To be very honest, I have never been so excited about the word “Phallus” in my life. Whoever I spoke to earlier in the day wasn’t amused by mention of it, be it Japanese or Foreigners, forget about going to a “Fertility Festival”. However I had made up my mind. This would be the first ever Japanese festival I will be covering for my blog.

Being in Japan for almost ten years now. I have time and again, heard about this festival, but as others, I wasn’t interested either. Just the name of it will sounded bells!

However since I started writing about Japan two weeks ago, I thought of it as an opportunity to explore real Japan and its culture, some of it can be pretty amusing but if thought of, logically is very reasonable too. My first few experiences in a Japanese Onsen, where men take bath together were pretty weird too. However this one involved Kids, women and men. Day to Day people from all walks of life, celebrating the male organ.

Japanese society being a very closed society and people here are very Shy to talk about these things openly in day to day life. The very idea of a Steel Phallus festival which is held in such great Pomp and show was itself weird. The Male Organ is worshiped by priests and general population.

I wanted to experience first hand what this festival means to them. Also the population of Japan has been on a decline for past two decades and stress levels hinders the baby boomers.Was I expecting big crowds, of-course not.

However as soon as I reach Kawasaki station, from where we need to change to Kekiyu Line to reach Kawasaki- daishi. I was amazed, The train was filled up with both Japanese and foreigners. During last ten years, apart from my university and Night Clubs, I have never seen so many Gaijins together. I made a wild guess, that these people are visiting the Kanamara Matsuri, and Oh Man! I was right,

Reaching the Kawasaki-Daishi, the whole train bogies were almost empty. I would say two or three travelers in each Bogie who were travelling further down the line towards “Kojimashinden” which is the last station on this line.

Let me mention few things about this festival before I start with my experiences. I wanted to read about the history and significance of this festival and why would someone celebrate this as a public event, and not under closed doors or an invitee only event. Plus it was free event. Anyone could join in. Age was not a criteria, Kids, Teenagers, Adults, Old men and women. So here is the first picture. The scene at the station. Typical of a place like Shibuya or Roppongi which are famous for their nightlife.


I get out of the station and started clicking. I had been awake for more than 26 hours by the time i reached, but I had forgotten my tiredness. I felt super energetic. I met this elderly gentleman dressed in a school uniform. hmmm. I approached him and requested if I can take a picture with him, in my broken Japanese. The guy replied in perfect English, “Yes sure! Where are you from”. After a bit of conversation, he asked if I wanted to explore just weird Japan. I nodded and said “This is not all. I wanna experience the Real Japan”.


he looked excited in the school dress as if he was back in his schooldays, the only difference now that he was much older and dressed up like a Japanese school-girl. We shook hands and then I moved on with a smile on my face…rightfully thinking,  Good start of the day. It will be Fun from hereon. And there was not one thing that let me down until I finished my day at midnight to catch the last train home.

The Kanamara Matsuri is centered around a local shrine created back in Japan’s Edo period (1603-1867) which was once popular among Kawasaki’s prostitutes wishing to pray for protection against sexually transmitted diseases. The festival is now also considered auspicious for married couples seeking to start a family and attracts a large transvestite and gay/lesbian crowd too. It now helps raise money for HIV/AIDS research.

This phallic festival originates from a rather nasty sounding legend of a sharp-toothed demon that hid inside the vagina of a young girl and castrated two young men on their wedding nights. As a result, the young girl sought help with a blacksmith, who made her an iron phallus to break the demon’s teeth, leading to the enshrinement of the item and the Kanamara Matsuri.

There are three portable shrines (called mikoshi) which are carried around the town in a very colourful procession. They are the Kanamara mikoshi (the original portable shrine), Kanamara-bune mikoshi (shaped like a boat), and Elizabeth mikoshi (the pink giant).

A few steps from the station, and i reach the shrine. At the entrance were food stalls, Candy stalls selling Penis shaped candies. On the right side were singers and announcers. go further down a few steps and there it was , The Elizabeth mikoshi (the pink giant) and Other Mikoshi’s along-with. Right behind was raised platform with drummers sitting atop continuing to play the drums and priests saying prayers to celebrate the opening of the festival.

Crowds all around me did not feel shy to be clicked and readily accepted offer of a picture for a blog.

..and soon after, the procession started.

At the front of the procession was a man carrying a Insignia of the festival and was followed by  priests and a bunch of elders from the city. Then followed a person dressed up as sharp-toothed demon and the Woman representing the young girl. Notice that Demon is wearing a Geta (japanese wooden scandals) with only one support. the Normal Geta has two supports and again is difficult to walk on. There on-wards were people carrying the three Mikoshis and chanting “dekachin, dekachin, dekachin” which translates to what is already obvious- huge penis.


The Mikoshi’s were carried around the city for about an hour. Alcoholic beverages were served for free during the hour. Mind it, These Steel Phalluses are heavy and weight up-to 600 Kgs. After it was all over, various local bands played music until about sun down. Then they also had two wooden Phalluses for people to ride and click photographs with.


While most of the crowds went home, some stayed up until late to join others and enjoy the evening with drinks at various Izakayas lining up opposite the Kawasaki station.

Here are some photos of the Festival.

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