The Kanamara Fertility Festival, one of Japan’s special Shinto festivals well-known worldwide, is held on the first Sunday of April every year at Wakamiya Hachiman Shrine in Kawasaki, Japan, praying for safe sex, prosperity and fertility. This shrine has a deity of a male sex organ enshrined, so it has divine grace of getting a child, and giving birth safe and sound to a healthy child. This festival is described in every guidebook on Japan like Lonely Planet or Rough Guides, so thousands of people from all over the world come to see it. US military bases have adult-only tours to this shrine for their residents.
Japanese society was originally less strict on sex or sexual activities until Western culture was brought to Japan in the late 19th century. In the Edo Era and before, sexual activities were considered as important for prosperity and information related to sex was taught more frankly to youths as folktales, fables or other forms of stories. At the same time, people often held Shinto festivals related to sex in every part of the country as a token of gratitude to the sex deities, their parents who gave birth to themselves, their grandparents who gave birth to their parents, and their ancestors. Besides, such festivals were important to remind them of the pride of being born.
Nowadays, such kinds of festivals are very rarely seen. People of Japan now hate to talk openly about sex and sex education has been considered as taboo. Actually this festival is known to foreign people rather than Japanese. As for me, although I have lived in the Kanto area for over ten years, I had no idea of it until last year when I happened to know of it from a newspaper issued by US Navy at Atsugi Naval Air Facility. At that time I couldn’t be there because I was sick. This year is the first time for me to attend it.
I took Keikyu Daishi line and got off train at Kawasaki Daishi station. I arrived at the Wakamiya Hachiman Shrine at 9:30 am. It was a little cold but fine. Cherry blossoms were at their full bloom.
The first thing I saw there was these big cannons.
The wooden phallic timbers represent stronger sex ability. Guests could ride on them if they wished, like this:
There were some temporary souvenir shops in the Shrine selling goods related to sex or sex organs. A shop sold candies shaped male and female organs. Another shop sold wooden ornaments carved to penises. Even UNICEF built the stall for public relations for HIV prevention campaign.
This shopgirl who sold towels printed male and female sex organs posed for pictures, licking the phallic object put on the table of the shop. It’s my best shot!
Guests were also enjoying this festival. They drank beer and made merry seeing the curious items.
At 10:00 am, the fire-taking ceremony began. A priest led the holy ritual to show gratitude to the Kanamara deity, who is also a god of fire. The staff set fire in the sacred stove.
As the festival was well-known to foreign people, there were many guests and TV crew from abroad. This is the TV crew of Reuters.
When it was 11 am, the shrine ground was packed with thousands of people. I went out of the premise to the front of the torii to prepare for the mikoshi procession.
At noon, the miko ladies began dance performance in front of the sanctuary, followed by procession of the sacred mikoshi and the divine figures. There were many people with cameras in front of the torii to take a shot at them.
I left the Shrine after seeing them off because there were too many people in the premise and I got a little tired. Such kind of penile festival was my first experience and was very exciting. The only regret is that I can’t buy souvenirs for my colleagues of office because they would regard as sexual harassment if I did so.
Video for the Kanamara Festival is here:
The rest of the pictures are uploaded on Flickr.