April 1 (UPI) — Revelers in a Japanese city are preparing for the annual celebration commonly known as the “Penis Festival.”
The Kanamara Matsuri, which roughly translates to “Festival of the Steel Phallus,” begins each year on the first Sunday of April at the Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki.
The festival centers around the Shinto god Kanayama-hiko and the goddess Kanayama-hime. The deities are associated with the metallurgic arts and sexual health.
Revelers at the festival traditionally include sex workers seeking protection from disease and in modern times the crowd has grown to include LGBTQ groups seeking sexual blessings and married couples praying for fertility and healthy children.
The Kanayama Shrine now donates proceeds from the festival to research into HIV/AIDS.
“During the Edo period, the 1600s through the mid-1800s, prostitutes based out of inns along the road would visit the Shrine to pray for protection from sexually transmitted diseases.”
The event features phallic imagery reflected in works of art, edible treats, hats, puppets, costumes and a parade of portable shrines bearing sacred penis-shaped objects.
The Kanamara Boat Mikoshi, the first portable shrine in the parade, was donated to the festival by the Hitachi Zosen Corp. and features a black iron phallus on a boat-shaped base.
The second shrine, dubbed Elizabeth Mikoshi, features a giant phallus on a wooden base and is carried by men dressed as women and women dressed as men.
A legend about the Kanayama Shrine’s origins as a location for sexual healing involves a Shinto goddess who suffered severe injuries to the lower half of her body while giving birth to a fire god.
Another legend associated with the festival holds that a local woman’s first two marriages were ended prematurely by a sharped-tooth demon inhabiting her sexual organs …
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