When people talk about traveling to Japan, stories are often recalled of scarlet sunrises over Mount Fuji or Cherry Blossom filled picnics. A diverse country, Japan combines old and new, and once a year on the streets in Kawasaki, it even goes a little crazy during the Kanamara Matsuri Festival!
The Kanamara Matsuri Festival, also known as the Pink Penis Parade or Festival of the Steel Phallus, is a yearly fertility festival held at the Kanamara Shrine in Kawasaki, Japan. The festival originated during the Edo period (1603 - 1867) when prostitutes used to pray for protection from STD's at the local penis-venerating shrine. Since its inception, Kanamara Matsuri has since evolved to promote fertility, harmonious marriages and even draw attention and fundraise for HIV research.
Although it may sound bizarre at first, statues of giant phalluses take center stage on the first Sunday of April in Kawasaki. Kanamara Matsuri is made up of everything phallic – from candies and cookies, to ice drops and toys. The streets are swamped with phallic symbols and statues that sometimes shock and surprise new visitors.
Back in the day, Kawasaki was known as a red-light district so gays, lesbians and commercial sex workers usually join in celebration of the Japanese Penis Festival. Celebrated around the Kanamara Shrine, the festivities include a plethora of what some would consider jaw-dropping activities such as a parade of transvestites, people sucking on all sorts of phallic shaped candies and old men carving phallus shaped radishes. All these activities are believed to drive out all the bad luck in marriages, pregnancy, family life and sex life. This Japanese Fertility Festival is really a diverse experience unlike any other festival in the world.
If you think you need to charm-up your relationship, a little exposure to the Penis Festival may just be the trick. If you want a totally mind-blowing, out of this world experience, bring your lover, your friends and colleagues to straight to Kawasaki and experience a little bit of naughty fun. Watch out for that first Sunday of April as the Kanamara Matsuri Festival usually occurs in this date. Don't be surprised if you see little children during this Japanese Penis Festival, locals bring them over to join in the fun. Although it is a little bit weird to see children running around phallus statues, this is part of the unique and authentic Japanese tradition.
Odds n' Ends
Getting to Kawasaki, Japan to experience Kanamara Matsuri is pretty easy. To get there, book a flight to Japan's Narita International Airport. From Narita Airport you can hop on a domestic flight, drive, or take a combination of trains and buses to reach Kawasaki. Kawasaki is about two hours from Narita. You can choose to book hotels in Narita or Kawasaki. There are hotels and inns for every traveler’s budget, but if you do plan on a hotel in Kawasaki, it's best to book in advance of the festival rush.
Aside from the phallus shaped candies and pastries at the Kanamara Matsuri Festival, Kawasaki is a good place to fill your tummy with delicious and authentic Japanese cuisine such as Shabu-shabu. Shabu-shabu is a treat for all ages and the streets of Kawasaki are filled with different restaurants offering this hot pot of thinly sliced meats, veggies and sauces. Cap off your Kawasaki experience by visiting the Kawasaki museum. Buy some lucky “darumas” (Japanese figurines) to bring home as souvenirs.
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