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Mon Aug 31 23:47:19 SAST 2015

Japanese festival celebrates the penis

Times LIVE | 10 April, 2014 10:54

A festival in Japan, which dates back to the 1600s, celebrates the penis.

The Kawasaki’s Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Iron Phallus), which was held a few days ago, is an ancient tradition that serves as a celebration of and prayer for fertility, long marriages and healthy births, and a way to promote awareness about sexually transmitted diseases, most importantly HIV, according to the festival organiser’s website.

The pinnacle of the festival involves carrying an altar in the shape of a penis to the shrine, followed by a parade in which both men and women dress in women’s kimonos and carry wooden penises. Nearly everything in the festival is in the shape of a phallus, from hats to sweets.

In the 1600s, during Japan’s Edo period, local prostitutes would congregate at the Kanamara Shinto shrine in Kawasaki, where they’d pray for protection against sexually transmitted diseases.

A more fantastic tale lies in the fabled “vagina dentata,” or toothed vagina, which supposedly castrated several poor young men on their wedding nights.

The woman cursed with the toothed vagina (most likely syphilis) went to see a blacksmith, who forged her a dildo made of iron in order to break the teeth of her inner demon, thus protecting the penis of her future suitor.

The Kanamara shrine is dedicated to the blacksmith, and over the centuries sex workers have paid pilgrimage to the shrine to seek its powers of protection.

The festival includes penis hats, penis puppets, penis floats, penis costumes and penis lollipops, and even elderly Japanese alongside young couples seeking cures for impotence and infertility.

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