KANAGAWA (TR) – In a blue bandanna and spectacles, a candy maker behind a stand in front of Wakamiya Hachiman Shrine in Kawasaki City reaches into a tub of translucent sugary goo to remove a slab. After applying a dab of pink coloring with a brush, he carefully pulls and flattens the candy with his fingers.
A crowd has gathered. Rows of the maker’s plastic-wrapped suckers, which go for 600 yen a pop, are on display.
“What do you want,” he asks, “a penis or a vagina?”
He then uses a tweezer-like metal tool to give his product a final crimping into a slightly curved shape before he drops it on a stick.
The stand is one of many offering phallic fare at the Kanamara Matsuri, or metal penis festival, a weekend event held annually in April — often colloquially referred to as the fertility festival — that is a relatively serious free-for-all to honor men’s manhood.
The real activity begins around noon with the blessing by chief priest Hiroyuki Nakamura of the three mikoshi (portable shrines) adorned with perky penises. In traditional festival style, the mikoshi units are then carted by groups of volunteers through the community.
Shrine “Elizabeth,” with a pink penis about the size of a garbage can mounted on its wood frame, is carried by a club of transvestites from Tokyo’s Asakusa district. With plenty of makeup and pink attire, they repeatedly thrust the shrine to the sky as they chant: “It’s a big one!”
Large foam phalli and inclined woodies that effectively act as unique benches are strewn about the gravel-and-hardpan grounds for festival-goers to play and pose with as they munch on yakitori (grilled chicken) and gulp beer from nearby concessions.
White male member lollipops with red tips are offered for 700 yen. Penis-shaped ceramic sake cups, complete with faux urethras so as to be used in fellatio fashion, are peddled along with decanters shaped like large testicles. Fifty milligrams of Viagra is available for 3,000 yen.
A stand offering chocolate pressed into a variety of sex positions posts a sign promising those who touch one of the three woody penises will be bring happiness and prosperity.
Upon the return of the portable shrines, the volunteers rock and hoist them upward them to the cheers of the gathered crowd before placing back on their stands. Later in the afternoon, radishes, carved into the shape of the day, are sold at auction.
Just how all this revelry came to attract thousands of Japanese and foreigners alike to the city of Kawasaki Daishi, a Tokyo suburb in Kanagawa Prefecture, is rooted in legend. Many moons ago a village blacksmith forged an iron penis to thwart a demon who had swooped up inside a virgin princess and proceeded to munch on the conjugal organs of her first two husbands.
Dubbed Kanamara, this demon-vanquishing hunk of metal was subsequently honored with its own place of worship, Kanamara Shrine, which sits on the Wakamiya compound. It is here that a ceremonial lighting of the “sacred fire” (as a homage to the blacksmith) occurs the evening before Sundayﾕs main festivities. For ceremonial purposes, metal works company Enuke Kinzoku Kako in 1995 fabricated a three-foot black phallus, which stands at attention nearby.
During the Edo Period (1603-1867), the area was a haven for prostitution with many ladies attending the festival to pray for protection against syphilis.
Attendees of the festival today line up to give prayers for happy and fertile marriages. Donations to fight the spread of HIV, the modern scourge, are encouraged.
Back at the candy stand, business is going quite well. A large Australian man saunters up.
“If you want a vagina,” the maker says to him, “you’ll have to wait because I’m making them. But there are plenty of penises.”
Note: This article originally appeared on the Sake Drenched Postcards site in 2006.