April 2, Kanamara Matsuri. Hard to believe : Japan’s penis festival

On Kanamara Matsuri or Penis Festival, people carry giant penises through the streets in one of the world’s most unusual festivals.

Despite smirks and giggles from Westerners, this is no Fantasy Fest.

It’s an ancient tradition that serves as a celebration of (and prayer for) fertility, long marriages and healthy births.

It promotes awareness about sexually transmitted diseases, most importantly HIV.

The festival is held on the first Sunday of April and falls on April 2 this year.

The penis festival dates back to the 1600s

Back then, prostitutes would gather outside the shrine to pray for good business and protection from sexually transmitted diseases.

Legend has it that an evil demon possessed the vagina of a young woman, giving it sharp teeth after she refused its advances (syphilis, perhaps?).

The toothed vagina then castrated the woman’s first two fiancés who tried to have sex with her on their wedding nights.

The woman turned to a blacksmith for help. The blacksmith came up with a great plan: he would make a steel penis.

The demon fell for the trap when it bit down on the steel penis and broke all its teeth, protecting all future fiancés’ penises.

The pinnacle involves carrying an altar in the shape of a penis to the shrine.

A parade follows in which both men and women dress in women’s kimonos and carry wooden penises.

Penis hats, penis puppets, penis floats, penis costumes, and penis lollipops are everywhere,


There’s the “Kanamara Fune Mikoshi” – a steel penis in a ship – which represents the steel phallus that the woman used to dispel the demon…

The “Big Kanamara Mikoshi” made of wood. Here they are carrying out a Shinto ritual to “transfer” the Gods from the shrine to the portable one to be carried through the streets, and to bless/purify it.

The standout pink penis mikoshi known as “Elizabeth” was donated to the festival by Tokyo drag queen club Elizabeth Kaikan.

“Elizabeth” is famously carried through the streets by transgender/cross-dressing festival participants.


Now we’ve got penis festival envy.


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