Every year in the streets of Japan, locals and tourists from all walks of life come to celebrate Kanamara Matsuri, the “Festival of the Steel Phallus,” in a big way. Onlookers marvel at the gigantic phallic-shaped mikoshi — portable Shinto shrines — to promote safe sex, fertility, and the penis. From Japanese youngsters to the elderly, all generations participate in the event with penis hats, penis puppets, penis floats, penis costumes, and even penis lollipops. The festival also has vendors that claim to sell cures for impotence and infertility. 

Elderly Japanese women at the penis festival Elderly Japanese women holding penis figurines at the festival. Photo courtesy of Trotter Productions/YouTube.

“Both men and women dress in women’s kimonos, and it’s not uncommon to see grandmothers licking penis-shaped lollipops,” said Fest300.com, a site that claims to bring the world’s best festivals to life. Although the penis festival may raise some eyebrows for Westerners, the tradition dates back to the 17th century, according to Fest300.com, when prostitutes were said to have prayed for protection against sexually transmitted diseases at Kawasaki's Kanamara shrine. Sex workers from around the world pay pilgrimage to the shrine to seek protection.

Giant penis being carried on huge altar Giant penis figurine carried on alter by parade marchers. Photo courtesy of Trotter Productions/YouTube.

While the festival does have some deep-seeded history, it still remains a penis festival that promotes sexual health through the use of giant phallic figurines. Penis icons in all shapes and sizes made from iron, wood, and inflatable plastic can be spotted throughout this annual celebratory event. Male genitalia and fertility are glorified in the Japanese joystick parade as marchers dressed in pink hold up three huge altars with erect idols. The festival also includes a radish-carving competition and participants in the costume parade are judged, followed by a feast as the proceeds of this event go toward HIV research.

Enjoy some photos and a video that captures the big moments from this year's and previous years’ festivals. 

Man and woman posing with phallic figurine Man and woman posing with phallic figurine at festival in 2014. Photo courtesy of Trotter Productions/YouTube.

carved male and female organs Carved male and female organs at the festival in 2010. Photo courtesy of Masayuki (Yuki) Kawagishi, CC BY 2.0.

Penis candles Penis candles for sale at the festival in 2010. Photo courtesy of Masayuki (Yuki) Kawagishi, CC BY 2.0.