People carry a large phallus-like statue during the annual Kanamara Festival in Kawasaki on April 2, 2017. Source: Behrouz MEHRI / AFP
FOR JAPAN, spring is a gorgeous season because it always marks a good time.
The biting cold fades away, lovers and friends are finally able to pursue cool outdoor adventures, and a sea of soft pink blankets the cherry trees, creating a romantic atmosphere.
While hanami (enjoying the transient beauty of flowers) is a highly anticipated annual event, loved by all, spring also brings another celebration that is perhaps not as PG rated.
Held the first Sunday in April at Kawasaki’s Kanayama Shrine, the Kanamara Matsuri or Kanamara Festival is a celebration that heavily features the male reproductive organ.
That is right. After all, its literal translation is “Festival of the Steel Phallus”.
The penis, a central theme of the 100 percent legitimate event, is reflected in everything at just about anywhere you turn.
Illustrations, candy, masks, carved vegetables, trinkets and keepsakes, and decorations in all colors and sizes.
A woman takes a selfie as she holds candy in the shape of a phallus during the annual Kanamara Festival in Kawasaki on April 2, 2017. Source: Behrouz MEHRI / AFP
You can even get your hands on lollipops in the shape of the male genitalia.
The most anticipated moment during the Kanamara Matsuri is perhaps when the massive penis mikoshi (a portable shrine), carried by dozens of locals, is paraded through the town located just south of Tokyo.
During which, a scrum of excited spectators laugh, chant, and jostle to get a glimpse of the mikoshi.
This may come as a shock to the unsuspecting traveler as Japan is famed for modesty and manners. But there are actually sound reasons for the Kanamara Matsuri.
People crowd outside the Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine to see portable shrines bearing phalluses before the start of the Kanamara Festival in Kawasaki, a suburb of Tokyo on April 3, 2016. Source: TORU YAMANAKA / AFP
Legend has it that a demon had tried to woo a beautiful young woman but she refused it advances, driving the demon into a rage of jealousy.
The demon then hid inside the vagina of the young woman and gave it teeth.
When the young woman got married and attempted to start a family, the demon bit off the penises of her two fiances.
After that, she sought help from a blacksmith, who fashioned an iron phallus which shattered the demon’s teeth and vanquished him, which led to the enshrinement of the item.
A man hangs key chains in the shape of phalluses on his trousers during the annual Kanamara Festival at Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki on April 2, 2017. Source: Behrouz MEHRI / AFP.
Today, the festival is held as a prayer for fertility, easy delivery, smooth marital relationships, and business prosperity.
During the 17th century, prostitutes would flock to the festival as well to wish for divine protection from sexually transmitted infections.
Having become something of a tourist attraction, the Kanamara Matsuri also celebrates sex and the LGBT community, as well as raise funds for HIV research.
Getting there: Take the Keikyu Daishi line. Get off at the Kawasaki-Daishi station. From here, the Kanamara Matsuri is just a short walk away.