Monday, 7 April 2008

かなまら祭り Kanamara Festival

かなまら祭り Kanamara Festival

It was about time to visit another festival in Japan. I have been looking forward to see this festival for quite some time, because it is not unusual not only for the common westron, but also for the modern Japanese. The festival is called after the organizing shrine Kanamara Festival and is held in the city of 川崎 Kawasaki (Station: 川崎大師 Kawasaki Daishi).

It is an ancient fertility festival that survived until this date and as many fertility festivals its main focus is the Phallus. The organizing Shinto shrine thus focuses on Phallus symbols and uses them for worshiping and praying.

Just like a normal festival you will see priests and volunteers carrying 山車 dashi (portable shrines) around the city, however in contrast to other festivals, fitting the theme, those dashi host large erect penises.

Because of this curiosity the festival annually attracts many visitors from all over Japan. You will immediately hear the exceptionally large number of foreigners at the festival site. But also a lot of crazy Japanese who came to experience this festival so unusual in the current age. Because of this popularity the organizers responded by offering various items connected with Penises. You can lick at Penis ice cream, buy Penis candy, buy pictures for Phallus worship, Penis key chains, Penis shaped radish and and and. There are also some penis statues around the shrine site, where you can ride or sit on. The prices for most of the items are a little overpriced, however since all the money will be spent for HIV research, you don't need to have a bad consciousness licking on a penis ice cream. In earlier times the shrine was mainly used by prostitutes to pray for not getting sexually transmitted diseases.

Someone at the shrine site explained us, that penis and even vagina worshiping shrines were quite common in ancient Japan. As in many cultures they were symbols for fertility. Then however the Buddhism came to Japan and criticized the Shinto shrines worshiping worldly material things like penises and vagina. Probably in this time most of those shrines have been closed down and vanished together with their festivals. However as the Kanmara shrine proofs there are still a couple of them left in Japan.

So we arrived enjoyed the dashi parade noticing that most of the carriers were men dressed as women. Also later at the shrine site the number of playing or actual transvestites was quite high. It seems to be a traditional or seems to have evolved to a refuge for transvestites. Some of them at the temple played the 三味線 Shamisen.

Then we enjoyed the "attractions" at the temple site.

Afterwards we had dinner and continued to a public park in Kawasaki Daishi. The park is really great and reminded us of European parks where the whole city comes together to spend some nice time. We borrowed a green tarpaulin and had some picnic. Then we discovered that the park hosts a great adventure playground, transformed back into children and had a lot of fun at the playground :)

"Could you tell me the way to the playground?"

your eternal child

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