Kanamara Matsuri is an annual festival celebrated by penis "worshippers," aimed at spreading awareness about STDs and raising funds for HIV prevention programs.
For many of us, our introduction to Japanese culture was probably anime. I still remember watching Pokemon on the weekends with my siblings. Therefore, I became interested in Japan and the country's interesting traditions at quite a young age, as a child. However, I was not prepared to learn about the very adult annual festival of Kanamara Matsuri. Kanamara Matsuri, held each spring in the city of Kawasaki, is centered around the phallus. Yep, you read that right. It's an entire festival dedicated to penises. As you have probably already guessed, the festival attracts hordes of tourists every single year. If this sounds like something right up your alley, you will be glad to know that there is still time to book your tickets.
According to historians, the festival is said to date all the way back to the 17th century. It emerged when sex workers would visit the Kawasaki shrine in, of course, Kawasaki, to pray for protection against STDs. Now, the festival is held for a good cause - to spread awareness about safe sex (staying true to Kanamara Matsuri's original purpose) and raise money for HIV prevention programs across the island nation of Japan. These days, festivities include penis-shaped illustrations, candy, carved vegetables, and decorations. In addition to this, there is always a mikoshi parade. A mikoshi is a sacred religious palanquin usually used to transport a deity. During the parade, a giant penis-shaped statue is placed in a mikoshi and carried around the city as tourists and "worshippers" walk alongside it.
While the tradition may have initially begun in the 17th century, the festival has officially been held every year since 1969 (a fitting year, don't you think?). But how exactly did the penis become a holy object? Well, legend has it that a demon once fell in love with a beautiful woman and hid inside her vagina. Eventually, due to jealousy - most demons are quite possessive creatures - the demon bit off her husband’s penis when they were having sex. The woman, frustrated, angry, and downtrodden wanted to relieve herself of the demon's curse. Therefore, she visited a blacksmith and asked him to make a metal organ to break the demon’s teeth in order to free her from its curse. Thankfully, it worked, and thus the penis became a holy object.
Now, coming back to the present day, this year's Kanamara Matsuri will be held on April 5, 2020. You know what that means... You've still got time to book your flight tickets and hotel stay to make it in time for the hugely celebrated penis festival. While you're there, you can pose and take photographs with a giant dong, purchase penis-shaped memorabilia - such as popsicles, for example... *wink wink* - and witness traditional dance and song performances. It could even make for a fun bachelorette trip! So what are you waiting for? Book your tickets before it's too late.