Thursday, April 09, 2009

Kanamara Matsuri - what's wrong with a (big pink) dong?

Oh yes, I went again - the yearly festival of the steel phallus, Kanamara Matsuri. There's just something about this kind of festival that sucks you in, a certain charm I guess you might say. This time I got to see most of what I wanted to: saw the peni-parade, bought a poon-pop, rode the wooden general... done, done and done! I was also rather amused by the fact that the people who volunteered to help out in directing traffic when the procession left the shrine for a one hour jaunt through town were none other than... ready for it? The local boy scouts! Go figure.

I've mentioned the festival to any number of people, foreigner and Japanese, and people seem to be split in their opinions. Just now I had my camera on me and showed a Japanese friend pictures, and he was just shocked that such a thing happened in his country. When I told him that it's been around for a few hundred years and has tradition, he said that that makes it even worse - strange stuff like that shouldn't be what Japan is known for, but strange festivals and traditions like that exist and make Japan look weird. Oh and did I mention that this guy is a total perv who has no problem with guys cheating on their girlfriends or the various red light district options available in Japan and much of Asia for that matter?

Now sure Kanamara and festivals like it are rather known abroad, even if it's just as "that Japanese penis festival", but so what if they do? And conversely, most Japanese people don't know about it or avoid these kinds of festivals, but why shouldn't they know about it and participate in it?

There's nothing perverted about sex or penises, and I personally am certainly not shackled by that "traditional" western concept. I say "traditional" because prostitution is known as the oldest industry in the world. That, and half the world owns a penis, and everyone has sex... or at least everyone but the Pope and maybe some extreme introverts. None of us would be here if it wasn't for sex, so celebrate it!

There are fertility festivals and shrines elsewhere in the country, but Kanamara and the shrine at Kawasaki Daishi are devoted to prevention of stds - they contribute a bunch of the proceeds to HIV research apparently, and it says people on the grounds pass out condoms but I certainly didn't see them. Anyway, certainly a worthy cause. My question is, why is this something to be ashamed of, and why shouldn't the whole country be aware of and perfectly fine with the fact that these kinds of things go on in Japan?

Your country celebrates the penis Japan, now raise that penis-pop with pride! Be true to your traditions and show the rest of the world that sex is nothing to be ashamed of.

For more pictures of Kanamara visit my Flickr page.

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