The festival is especially popular with Western tourists who visit Japan during the Sakura season. Many also participate in this festival, and what’s surprising is how few Japanese people know it exists.
Unlike many Japanese festivals, the Kanamara Matsuri has a large number of tourists who make up the participants. While the festival dates back to the Edo period, the world has taken notice of it and we’ll explain more lower down in the article.
During the parade, three portable, phallic shrines are carried by attendees. It’s really weird and looks funny to most as the participants who carry the shrines yell out “Kanamara Dekkaimara!” to each other. It’s similar to how people yell out “Wasshoi” during other festivals, but “Dekkai” means big and “Mara” means… well you get the picture.
When they yell it, the audience becomes exited and shouts for joy whenever they want to.
There are also many street shops that sell T-shirts, candles, daikon, and candy all taking the phallic form festival goers celebrate on this day. Moreover, the festival has all kinds of food available and also some anatomically-inspired candies as seen below.
During festival, nobody is shy and both men and women, young and old are able to enjoy the festivities together; however, the Kanamara festival has a long and varied history.
The origin of festival begins with a small tale of a female server at a hotel who prayed to god in order to find posterity, prosperity, an easy birth, and matchmaking in Edo period. Later on in the festival’s history, Hirohiko Nakamura, the former chief priest of Wakamiya shrine, organized the Kanamara group and changed the festival forever.
Beginning in 1977, the Kanamara group has enjoyed creating Edo-period recreations of the festival. After group began to advocate for the treatment and eradication of AIDS and discrimination during “World AIDS day” in 1988, the world recognized the event and the first official Kanamara festival was held in 1989.
Unfortunately, 2014’s festival finished just couple weeks ago. Take a look below at the schedule and for anyone looking to attend the festival mark your calendar for Sunday April 5th, 2015.