The Kanamara Matsuri 2020 is a Japanese festival originally intended to offer prayers for fertility, business prosperity, and good marital relationships. However, the last few years have seen this unique festival evolve into a controversial festival celebrating sexuality in all forms, without judgment. It has even been given the nickname of “penis festival” (yes, you read that right!).
But true to the spirit of being inclusive, the Kanamara Matsuri attracts a diverse crowd of over 30,000 people, including married couples who want children as well as people of all sexual identities, nationalities, and backgrounds. It takes place every April at the Kanayama Shrine, which is dedicated to the divine couple Kanayama Hiko no Kami and Kanayama Hime no Kami, who are recognized as protectors of sexuality and blacksmiths. But the reason why the spectacle has attained such a massive scale dates back to its history. During the Edo period (1603-1863), legend has it that women working as prostitutes and maids would pray at the Kanayama Shrine for protection against disease and misfortune. Fast forward to present day, people with sexually transmitted diseases still come to the shrine to pray at night for protection.
This is what prompted the parishioners to establish a sensational festival which would allow anyone and everyone to celebrate in the daylight without fear of discrimination.
All kinds of people participate in this one-of-a-kind parade. The exhibition hall and shrine are open to visitors on the day of Kanamara Matsuri, featuring a display of sexuality-related objects and books. But the hallmark of the celebration are the numerous phallic and penis-shaped souvenirs and food that can be found all over.
‘Diversity, sexuality, fertility, and yes… penises are celebrated in this quirky, unique festival’
The mikoshi (portable shrine) that carries with it a massive pink penis will be hard to miss!
Another eye-catching mikoshi is the Elizabeth Mikoshi, named after the Elizabeth Kaikan, a famous drag bar in Tokyo. The rule is that the men who carry the Elizabeth Mikoshi are required to dress up like ladies, or in drag. This is probably where you’ll find the Japan contingent of RuPaul’s Drag Race fans.
Kanamara Matsuri is held on the first Sunday of April at the Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki.
To get here from Tokyo or Yokohama, go to the Shinagawa Station and take the Keikyu Kawasaki or Keikyu Main Line, switch to the Keikyu Daishi Line until you are at the Kawasaki Daishi Station. From here, it’s only a minute’s walk to the Kanayama Shrine.
The main events don’t start until noon. However, since it’s in a residential area, it’s best to arrive before midday to reserve a good spot.
Several train lines service Kawasaki and its surrounds. Get a Suica, Pasmo or Icoca prepaid card which you can use on all buses and trains in Kawasaki.
Kawasaki has several affordable hotels and homestays that are just a stone’s throw away from the Kanayama Shrine. If you opt to make a day trip out of it, you can also base yourself in Tokyo or Yokohama then take a quick train ride to Kawasaki.
For the best hotel deals and Airbnb’s in Kawasaki head to the map below.
If you are visiting for the Kanamara Matsuri, make it a point to be in Kawasaki the day before so that you can also check out the Kawasaki Morimori Food Festival; a celebration of local food such as herb sausages, dorayaki (pancake sandwiches with a red bean paste filling), cheap desserts, and delicious Japanese craft beers! Culminate the festival by competing at a karaoke singing competition. After all, when in Rome….well, in this case, Japan.
Kawasaki also has great temples, shopping, and dining.
Kanayama Matsuri will take place on April 5, 2020.
Rad Season is providing you with hotels and Airbnbs at the lowest prices available online. Book your stay for Kanamara Matsuri 2020 using the map below!
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