【英語も学べる日本文化エッセイ】Kanamara Matsuri/かなまら祭り(和訳付き)

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Kanamara Matsuri by Brittney Cartis

Kanamara Matsuri means festival of the steel phallus, but is commonly referred to as the fertility festival or penis festival. This is a world recognized festival and for good reason too. This festival started in 1969 with the goal of celebrating in the daylight without discrimination so people can come as they are without any harsh judgement. People from all walks of life come to pray for fertility, a safe child birth, a good marriage, happiness and business prosperity.

I have attended this popular festival twice and must say this has got to be the most entertaining and fun festival I have ever attended! The parade is quite the head turner with the penis decorations and penis mikoshi or palanquin that are carried through the crowds during the festival and don’t be surprised if the day is filled with many double-takes as the outfits are wildly unique!

The festival is filled with great energy and it’s very refreshing to see people of all backgrounds and ages expressing themselves and having a good time. The festival takes place every year on the first Sunday in April at the Kanayama Shrine. I recommend getting there early since this festival draws in very large crowds and long lines! There are lots of goodies for sale throughout the shrine and surrounding streets in the theme of course penis shapes from candy to veggies as well various penis merchandise from t-shirts to candles and everything in between! I have to say I did end up giving in and buying a few overpriced souvenirs myself, but for a good cause as the shrine donates to HIV and AIDS research with money made during the festival.

Historically Kanayama Shrine dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1868) where the area was similar to a rest stop along the highway, but back then it was filled with inns, brothels, and tea houses for people to sleep, eat and buy time with sex workers when they traveled along the main road of Tokaido, which linked Edo to other cities like Kyoto. It was during this time the meshimori onna or the maids of the inns and also usually sex workers would come in the night to pray for protection against sexual disease and misfortune. The gods this shrine is dedicated to is the divine couple responsible for protecting blacksmiths and mining; Kanayamahiko and Kanayamahime.

Now it’s legend time! This twist of the legend says that the Shinto goddess of creation and death; Izanami, suffered major burns over her lower body when giving birth to a fire god and it was Kanayamahiko and Kanayamahime that healed her instead of burning to death and becoming Queen of the Underworld like other legends suggest. For some reason the involvement of Izanami in this legend is directly associated with helping people with venereal diseases, fertility, a happy marriage and having a safe child birth which is why nowadays people pray to Kanayamahiko and Kanayamahime for these things.

The more popular and truly bizarre legend says that a young woman rejected the romance of a demon who fell in love with her. Feeling hurt by the rejection, the demon lodged himself in the woman’s vagina. This demon has big sharp teeth and would bite off any brave man’s penis in any attempt to make love to her. It is said that this demon bit off the penises of her newlywed husbands during their wedding night this happened not once but twice. The woman wanting to live a normal life, decided to seek out the help of a blacksmith. His challenge was to build a steel phallus strong and hard enough to break the demon’s teeth which he succeeded in doing. When the steel phallus entered the woman, it destroyed the demon’s teeth and freed the woman’s vagina of him which instantly restored fertility. Today, both the spirit of the blacksmith and the steel phallus replica are preserved at Kanayama Shrine.

I think it’s important to have some knowledge and general understanding of the history and legends of the places you visit and events you attend, for me this makes the experience much more interesting and meaningful. If you haven’t had the chance to experience this April festival for yourself, I highly recommend you make the time because this is an absolute “must do!”

かなまら祭り by ブリトニー・カーティス








(翻訳 by とら猫


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World-traveling writer, loves trains and Goshuin.

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