Kanamara Matsuri: Everything you wanted to know about Japan’s Penis Festival

What is Kanamara Matsuri - commonly referred to as the “Steel Penis Festival”?
What is Kanamara Matsuri - commonly referred to as the “Steel Penis Festival”? Copyright AFP - Guilhem Vellut
Copyright AFP - Guilhem Vellut
By David Mouriquand
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button
Copy/paste the article video embed link below:Copy to clipboardCopied

Every spring, thousands of tourists flock to Kawasaki, Japan, to celebrate one thing – the penis.


Every spring, thousands of tourists flock to Kawasaki, Japan, to celebrate one thing – the penis.

Yes, blessed is the male member during Kanamara Matsuri - commonly referred to as the “Steel Penis Festival” - which is an annual event held on the first Sunday of April. 

And to not mince words, it looks like Mardi Gras with dongs.

Kanamara MatsuriAFP

This may seem odd to some, considering Japan is a country that is usually associated with decorum and discretion when it comes to one’s private life - especially sexuality. However, everyone shows up to the centrepiece of the event: the Mikoshi parade, which features three large erect (but portable) shrines carried through the streets on floats.

One is a black iron phallus, one is a wooden willy, and the third is a pink prick.

But why, you ask?

Well, the ancient legend has it that a young woman once fell victim to a jealous demon's curse. The sharp-toothed demon, driven by envy, chose to hide inside her vagina and bit off her husband’s penis when she tried to have sex with him.

If this is sounding like the inspiration behind the 2007 film Teeth, you’re not half wrong.

Apparently, the desperate woman sought assistance from a blacksmith who crafted a metal phallus to outwit the demon. As the demon attempted to bite down on the steel schlong, its teeth shattered, forcing it to abandon the woman's body. She lived happily ever after with her husband, who somehow managed to grow his penis back. 

Quite the feat, you'll agree, and the details are a bit fuzzy for this part of the story… But hooray for metal members.

The black iron phallus - representing the power of lifeAFP

The festival, which held its first edition in 1969 (seriously), commemorates this legend, and the Kanayami Shrine where the steel phallus resides has become a focal point for couples wishing to pray for fertility and good fortune in their marriage. Sex workers would also frequent the site to pray for protection and to avoid STDs.

The event gained in popularity in 2012, when TV star Matsuko Deluxe – an advocate of sex positivity and LGBTQ rights – name-checked the festival. Now, there are roughly 50,000 attendees each year, with the event becoming an important outlet for LGBTQ groups in Japan.

During the festival, and much to the delight of tourists and Instagrammers, penile paraphernalia is sold, male genitalia lollipops are sucked on, and all the proceeds are donated to HIV research.

The pink phallus during the Mikoshi paradeAFP

This year’s festival did mark one change, though.

You see, for several years, a man in a distressingly detailed penis costume started making the rounds. The main snag is that the character bears a striking resemblance to Gachapin, a cuddly character from a children’s TV program on Fuji TV. 

See for yourself - and head's up - this cannot be unseen:

Jam Press
Gachapin (left) vs Gachachin (right)Jam Press

Yep, there that is. 

The costume has been called Gachachin - a play on words considering the word “chin” is a slang word for penis - and people have been alerted to the fact that the character is in no way related to the shrine. Nor is he the official mascot. 


The shrine sent out a tweet on its official Twitter account last month, in order to set the record straight:

“As of March 2023, there are no official mascot characters for our Kanamara Festival. We do not officially recognise the costumed mascot called Gachachin, which is being treated as an official mascot on the Internet, in any way whatsoever. The maker of the costume performed without permission, but took the costume off in the end, so the shrine discarded it.”

That’s right – this year, to avoid any copyright infringement, the only official penises at the festival are the ones carried on people’s shoulders.

There truly are some sentences you can't prepare yourself to write when you wake up in the morning... 

At any rate, feast your eyes on more images from Kanamara Matsuri:

Guilhem Vellut
The wooden phallusGuilhem Vellut
Depictions of the vengeful demonAFP
Jam Press
The main eventJam Press
Phallus lolliesAFP
Festival Sherpa
More lolliesFestival Sherpa

Check out the video above for more footage of the Kanamara Matsuri.

Video editor • Kerem Congar

Share this articleComments

You might also like