If any nation has a fame for modesty and manners, it’s Japan. The Japanese are well mannered, by no means late and always bowing, goes the standard narrative – and there’s actually fact in that. However the actuality is a bit more difficult – and that complexity is on full view at one of many nation’s most outlandish spiritual festivals, the Kanamara Matsuri, or “Pageant of the Metal Phallus”, held yearly in Kawasaki, simply south of Tokyo.

It’s the primary Sunday in April, and I’m in Kawasaki’s Daishi neighbourhood, surrounded by penises of all colors and sizes. Usually the streets listed here are sleepy – simply three days in the past, just a few lonely pedestrians had been strolling the alleys – however at this time there’s a scrum of individuals shouting, laughing and chanting, pushing and shoving as they jockey for place. 

They’re all attempting to get a glimpse of the huge penis mikoshi, or transportable shrines, being paraded by way of the city. Every mikoshi is carried by dozens of locals outfitted in happi coats and sweatbands, whereas a number of the males are in fundoshi, loincloth-style underwear. 

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The Kanamara Matsuri is usually offered to outsiders as one more face of “quirky Japan”, however actually, it’s a severe spiritual affair, linked to Japan’s nature-worshipping Shinto faith.

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There is a severe aspect to the pageant too

Selena Hoy

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However it has stable historic and non secular roots

Selena Hoy

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Right now, the pageant features a cross-dressing group carrying this big pink penis

Selena Hoy

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The pageant is LGBT-friendly

Selena Hoy

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The pageant’s now turn out to be a part of Japan’s ‘wacky’ identification

Selena Hoy

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Phallic imagery abounds in Shinto

Selena Hoy

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Every part is penis-related on the day of the pageant

Selena Hoy

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The Elizabeth Kaikan group carry the pink penis

Selena Hoy

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1000’s of individuals attend the pageant

Selena Hoy

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The Elizabeth Kaikan group carry the pink penis

Selena Hoy

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The Shinto faith focuses on fertility

Selena Hoy

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There’s each type of meals in phallic form

Selena Hoy

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The intense a part of the procession

Selena Hoy

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There are many souvenirs on the market

Selena Hoy

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Individuals can put on something from loincloths to full uniforms

Selena Hoy

1/15

There is a severe aspect to the pageant too

Selena Hoy

2/15

However it has stable historic and non secular roots

Selena Hoy

3/15

Right now, the pageant features a cross-dressing group carrying this big pink penis

Selena Hoy

4/15

The pageant is LGBT-friendly

Selena Hoy

5/15

The pageant’s now turn out to be a part of Japan’s ‘wacky’ identification

Selena Hoy

6/15

Phallic imagery abounds in Shinto

Selena Hoy

7/15

Every part is penis-related on the day of the pageant

Selena Hoy

8/15

The Elizabeth Kaikan group carry the pink penis

Selena Hoy

9/15

1000’s of individuals attend the pageant

Selena Hoy

10/15

The Elizabeth Kaikan group carry the pink penis

Selena Hoy

11/15

The Shinto faith focuses on fertility

Selena Hoy

12/15

There’s each type of meals in phallic form

Selena Hoy

13/15

The intense a part of the procession

Selena Hoy

14/15

There are many souvenirs on the market

Selena Hoy

15/15

Individuals can put on something from loincloths to full uniforms

Selena Hoy

It’s organised by the clergymen of Kanayama Jinja, a ‘sub-shrine’ of the bigger Wakamiya Hachimangu that, the remainder of the yr, is populated virtually solely by locals. For hundreds of years, Kanayama has been a spot the place {couples} pray for fertility and marital concord; in the course of the Edo period, from the 17th to 19th centuries, intercourse employees would come and pray to be rid of the STIs that they picked up in the midst of the job. There was even a pageant revolving round fertility and sexual well being throughout these occasions – however the custom was misplaced within the late 1800s. Within the 1970s, then-chief priest Hirohiko Nakamura determined to resurrect it.

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Early incarnations of the ‘new’ Kanamara Matsuri had been held at night time and noticed solely a few dozen attendees. However since then, the pageant has morphed into what it’s at this time: a joyful and blatant celebration of the penis on this often extra circumspect nation.

The Japanese aren’t precisely recognized for broadcasting their intercourse lives and till not too long ago, the Kanamara Matsuri largely attracted a smattering of abroad guests. However 5 years in the past every little thing modified when it was name-checked by Matsuko Deluxe, a Japanese TV persona recognized for his cross-dressing and pro-sexuality views. The pageant shortly gained home followers – at this time it attracts round 50,000 guests. 

The parade consists of three mikoshi, every containing an unlimited disembodied phallus. The primary – ramrod straight and made from shiny black steel – is carried by a troupe of whistling and chanting shrine-bearers, careering backward and forward down the road as festivalgoers bounce out of the best way. The second is an outdated wood mannequin, historical and gnarled.

Phallic imagery isn’t unusual in Shinto (Selena Hoy)

The third is carried by a joso group: members of a cross-dressing membership known as Elizabeth Kaikan whose members are decked out in vivid make-up and vibrant wigs as they jiggle the mikoshi within the air, pouting and preening for the cameras.

However though some see the pageant as a joke, Kimiko Nakamura, former chief priestess on the shrine (and spouse of Hirohiko, who rebooted the pageant), stresses that it’s a respectable occasion – politically in addition to from a non secular perspective. 

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“Officers who deal with human rights from Metropolis Corridor have come to the pageant and handed out pamphlets, selling this pageant as a LGBT-positive, non-discriminatory occasion,” she tells me. “This occasion has deep, extensive roots in that type of considering, and we don’t need anyone to take it one other means. 

“We contemplate that there needs to be no discrimination in opposition to anyone, together with LGBT folks. Anyone ought to have the ability to come to this pageant and luxuriate in it.” Fertility prayers aren’t uncommon in Shinto, after all – and neither is phallic imagery.

Again within the procession, teams of individuals wander by sucking on penis-shaped lollipops colored inexperienced, blue, purple and pink. The road on the candy stand is at the least 30 deep. Even native eating places are doing their very own tackle phallic-shaped fare. 

It’s referred to as a enjoyable occasion however the pageant’s roots go means again (Selena Hoy)

And everybody’s loving it. I see grannies having fun with themselves. I meet one lady who tells me she works on the nursery college subsequent to the shrine and has been a pageant stalwart for 30 years. And plenty of folks have introduced young children, too. One little boy perches on his dad’s shoulders and factors to the massive pink phallus mikoshi. “Wow, a willy!” he says. “Yeah,” his dad responds. “It’s a giant willy.”

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