Sunday, April 12, 2015

Kanamara Matsuri 2015 (NSFW)

It always rains the first weekend of April. Sometimes it rains on Saturday, like in 2013 and 2014 when we had the first mini-typhoons of the season. Sometimes on Sunday. It rained the first Sunday of April both in 2013 and 2014, but only for a little bit. And sometimes it just rains all weekend. Like it did this year.

And why do I remember the weather on a particular day two years ago? Because on this particular day, namely the first Sunday of April, there is a matsuri held at Kanayama shrine all the way down in Kawasaki city. Not just any old matsuri, but the world famous (well, nearly), the one and only Festival of the Steel Phallus. Or more properly - Kanamara Matsuri. Or more commonly - chin-chin matsuri.
And that's how you just learned not one, but two words of Japanese: matsuri - festival, chin-chin - well, you know, that part of the male anatomy.


This year it was raining, and we should have stayed home, or gone to Starbucks at FKD Interpark, or watched a stupid movie. But noooo... Once we'd made our minds to go to Kawasaki city, there was no turning back.

Luckily for us, the Utsunomiya line doesn't terminate at Ueno these days, but continues all the way to Tokyo and beyond. So, at least getting there was easy - directly all the way to Kawaski. No mad dashes changing platforms at Ueno anymore. Awesome!

In Kawasaki - more rain.
Luckily for us, you can transfer between the stations (from JR to Keikyu) through an underground passage. That's the good part. The bad part was that walking underground we missed the much needed Starbucks.

The Keikyu Daishi line wasn't packed at all. Very unusual. Either we were very early, or the rain kept most festival goers away.


Kawasaki Daishi station was virtually empty. On Kanamara matsuri day! Unheard of.

We arrived at Kanayama shrine around 10AM (don't ask me what time we had to get up to catch the first train, it's a painful memory).

The first thing that I noticed was the increased number of porta-potties. Wow! They were literally everywhere on the shrine grounds.

(taken last year next to a portable toilet)

Other than portable toilets, there were also more food stalls than last year, and a lot fewer "souvenir" stands. Miss I. was determined to get some chocolate and a lollipop. I was forced to get a towel to protect my camera from the rain. I was miserably cold and my pretty shoes were getting muddy. I had enough sense to wear a rain jacket, but apparently not enough to put on a pair of rubber boots. That will teach me.

Kanayama is just one of the shrines in the complex properly known as Wakamiya Hachimangu.

 (taken last year when it was sunny)

The main big building is the "hachimangu". The smaller building off to the side, the one with a black penis statue next to it - that's Kanayama shrine.

 (taken last year)

It's inside that smaller building where the important religious ceremonies are performed during Kanamara matsuri.


 Well, yes, the matsuri...

In its present form it started in 1977, if them innertubes don't lie. But its history goes back all the way to the Edo period.

Kawasaki city had the good fortune, or misfortune, depending on how you look at it, to be the second station on the historical Tokaido road leading from Tokyo (back then known as Edo) to Kyoto. It was a busy road, it's starting point was in Shinagawa, but in reality, station number two, Kawasaki, was the town where all the pre-departure action was. The last place where busy travelers could fill up their stomachs and empty their balls before the long journey to Kyoto.

(taken last year)


The emptying of balls business was handled by a thriving prostitution scene. These ladies started coming to Kanayama shrine to pray for good business and for protection from STDs.
Why to Kanayama, and not to a different shrine?

 (taken last year)

Ha, as always in such cases, a legend is to blame.

Kanayama was (still is) the shrine where Kanamara-sama (Lord Iron Penis) is venerated.
The legend goes more or less like this:
There was a girl. There was a demon with big teeth. The demon got into her vagina. When the girl's husband tried to perform his husbandly duty on their wedding night, the demon bit off his manhood.
The same thing happened to husband number 2.
In desperation, the woman asked a local blacksmith to create an iron phallus to trick the demon and break his teeth. The blacksmith did as he was told, the woman used the iron dildo, the demon lost his teeth and departed from the woman's hoo-ha.

Happy end all around.

 (taken last year)

The legend of vagina dentata (a.k.a. womanly bits with sharp teeth) is actually not as uncommon as one might think. These days most people who study legends agree that it's a metaphor for a sexually transmitted disease. The prostitutes of the Edo era must have thought the same. Hence their prayers for protection from STDs at Kanayama shrine.

And supposedly it's in their honor why the pink penis mikoshi is being carried around by men dressed like women.

 (taken last year)

While these days you won't see prostitutes praying at the shrine, Kawasaki city is still pretty famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for its thriving pleasure business catering mainly to blue collar workers. Nowadays it's women from Eastern Europe and South East Asia, considered too low class for Tokyo, who work in Kawasaki's hostess bars, strip clubs, and brothels.

Anyway, about the festival...

 You wish, buddy... you wish...

Kanamara festival still retains its sexual health past, and in present times it has expanded to AIDS awareness. In addition, it's an occasion to pray for fertility in general, to ask and thank for healthy delivery of babies (as evidenced by numerous couples with small children), to wish for happy marriages, to promote gender equality (as evidenced by throngs of transvestites in attendance), and to raise the awareness of FGM (as evidenced by a special section of this year's procession).
So yeah, it's your all purpose ob-gyn event.


Only a mobile unit offering cervical cancer screenings and prostate exams was missing. Now, there's a healthy idea for next year!

Kanamara festival starts with off with religious ceremonies performed inside the shrine. That's supposedly the place to be, if you want to be healthy and fertile.  Though if you're early menopausal, like me, even the Lord Iron Penis won't be able to help you.


After the ceremonies, the window finally opens and you can get your goshuin (red temple or shrine stamp). This year I was smart and remembered to take my goshuin book. Here you have to make some tough choices.

 (last year)

Wait in line for a goshuin, or hop over to the area in front of the main shrine and watch the ritual dance and ceremonies before the mikoshi procession.
I watched the ceremonies last year.
This year I stood in line to get a red shrine stamp (500 yen).

(not this year's photo)


There are 3 mikoshi in total:
  • black schlong (a.k.a. Fune mikoshi, in honor of the iron penis that defeated the sharp-toothed demon)
  • pink schlong (a.k.a. Elizabeth mikoshi, carried by men dressed as women)
  • small schlong (the sacred one that is supposed to give you all sorts of sexual good fortune)

The procession starts at noon and perambulates in the vicinity of the shrine.
Last year I dutifully waited along the street and then followed the procession, or rather - ran in front of it to take this video:




This year we were wet and cold and decided to shield ourselves from the elements under a restaurant awning along the route.

The restaurant was full of local matsuri participants of the male variety, who were joyfully getting stark raving drunk. All still technically in the morning - before 12 o'clock.


As soon as the procession passed us by, we took the back street to the station and went to Koreatown to have lunch.

The procession:


Surprisingly, Tengu (the one in a red mask) has a normal nose. One would expect that here it would be, you know, more suggestively shaped.


I love the "get me out here" look on the woman's face.

Of course what would a mikoshi procession be without fundoshi:


While attending Kanamara might be good for the health and well being of my private girly bits, getting soaked in the rain and shivering for the rest of the day gave me an awful cold.


Apart from the religious ceremonies, there are also additional activities to keep the masses occupied. One of them is the radish carving contest.


I was going to participate this year, I even dutifully practiced all week, but... well... it was raining.

The festival, due to its "shocking" value is very popular with foreigners.

(No, not me. A random Russian chick.)

 Last year it seemed that every gaijin in the Kanto region was there.


And most of them seemed to be quite drunk:

(last year)

This year the crowds were not as intense, but still, plenty of foreign folk around. We chatted with a French family who thought that parading a giant pink penis around town in full view of everybody, including small children, was just the coolest thing ever.

 (taken last year)

Some people come dressed in costume.

(last year)

Some? I don't know?


Miss I. was looking forward to seeing Mr Kobayashi for the very first time. Alas, no luck. He arrived after we left. I showed her a picture I took of him in 2013.


Mr Kobayashi is a cult figure of sorts of the schoolgirl uniform subculture in Japan. In a gaijin mind he's a symbol of everything that's sick and perverted in this country.

Instead of Mr Kobayashi, we had to make do with a different school girl.


This matsuri claims to raise funds for AIDS research. Not sure how it does it, but when it comes to funds, there are plenty of opportunities to part with yours.


Anything and everything, penis and vagina shaped, of course.


Candles, candies, lollipops, keychains, T-shirts, pseudo-dildos and plenty of things that I'd rather not know what they're for.


All in all, a fun day when the weather's nice.

 (last year)

And a miserable, wet and cold day when it's not.


This year. Poor guys... I mean, girls...





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