Kanamara Matsuri: Festival of the Steel Phallus in Kawasaki

ByJason Gatewood
Mar 06, 2013

Kanamara Matsuri: Festival of the Steel Phallus in Kawasaki

Kanamara matsuri (El festival del falo de meta...

Kanamara matsuri procession (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Japan is known for a lot of things– good food, great electronics, reliable autos, wonderful scenery, and complex traditions  and a rich history that are weaved into its culture. Part of that tradition are the festivals, called “matsuri (祭)” that take placc around the local shrines and temples all over Japan. It was once told to me by a Shinto priest, “Oh, there’s probably a matsuri for anything and everything if you look hard enough.” So it should come as no surprise that there are fertility festivals…and specifically one that pays homage to the almighty “man-sword”.

There are plenty of “Phallus Festivals” in Japan; the main one being Hōnen Matsuri in Nagoya’s Tagata Shrine every March 15. Not to be outdone though, is Kanamara Matsuri: Festival of the Steel Phallus at Kawasaki’s Kanayama Jinja (金山神社). Kawasaki sits smack in between Tokyo and Yokohama, so it’s pretty much a guarantee there will be thousands of people coming from all over the metropolis to check it out.

According to Wikipedia, The Kanamara Matsuri is centered around a local penis-venerating shrine once popular among prostitutes who wished to pray for protection from sexually transmitted diseases. This is because back during the Edo period (1600-1868), Kawasaki was the last stop on the Tokaido road into western Japan, and like any rest stop in those days, had its share of “recreational facilites” such as brothels.  It is said that there are also divine protections for business prosperity and for the clan’s prosperity; and for easy delivery, marriage, and married-couple harmony.

These days, the festival is used to raise awareness of sexually transmitted diseases and as a fundraiser for HIV/AIDS research.


Every year,  first Sunday of April (6 March 2013)

  • 11:00 a.m.-11:15 a.m. – The Lighting of the Sacred Fire
    The fire is lit, and the festival kicks off.
  • 11:15 a.m.-11:45 a.m. – Main Ceremony
    The festival ceremony is performed in front of the altar.
  • 11:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m. – The Infusion of Divine Spirit
    Divine spirit is infused into the three phalli- Big Kanamara, Boat Kanamara and Elizabeth (the pink one). Bless them!
  • 12:00 p.m.-12:30 p.m. – The Carving of the Radishes
    Large Japanese radishes are carved into…interesting shapes…
  • 1:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m. – Festival Procession
    The moment you’ve been waiting for- the wee-wee brigade parade around the town. Also, a lot of people wearing fancy dress.
  • 3:00 p.m.-4:45 p.m. – Jibeta Matsuri (Earth Festival)
    The original festival. A straw mat is spread in the shrine grounds, and the drinking party begins!


Train: from Keikyu Daishi line,  KawasakiDaishi Station (KK23), 1 minute walk to the shrine.
Map: (mobile phone friendly) http://goo.gl/maps/FZ6oj

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About the author

Jason Gatewood editor

Our Tokyo based collaborator is a tech nerd, Japanophile, train nut, and a veritable fountain of information on Japan. His current goal is to watch Evangelion and actually "get it", sing every permutation of "Hotel California" at any karaoke gathering, ride every bullet train line, and sample all varieties of ramen throughout Japan. Catch more of his musings at · http://jlgatewood.com