A foreign lady once said to me, "Japanese people are so hard-working and serious, they don't tell many dirty jokes!" She's not wrong. Japanese people, me included, don't speak very openly about sex.
One pleasant April day, one of my friends asked me "Do you want to come to the Kanamara Matsuri?" I love festivals, so I immediately replied "OK". At that point, I still didn't know what kind of festival the Kanamara Matsuri is...
From Kawasaki-Daishi Station we walked for 2 minutes. The first thing that caught my eye upon entering the Shinto shrine was the ornament below.
I wonder what this gleaming black sculpture represents? I didn't know the answer to that question, but since the sculpture is bound with sacred straw ropes then it must be something very important. The gentleman in the picture seems to be enjoying himself.
We came across a long line of people (mostly foreigners), so while wondering "What are they waiting for?" I excitedly joined the line with my friend. This candy is what awaited us at the front of the line. Something about it reminded me of that "gleaming black ornament" from before. I didn't have a clue what this could mean, either.
I met these two ladies who had bought loads of that same candy. They both had amazing expressions on their faces. These three gentlemen laughed while complaining "They're too big to fit in our mouth!"
I don't know what's going on with this candy. It seems to appeal to people from all over the world!
At first glance, this lady seems quite sensible and mature. She certainly looks very happy. She must really like candy!
"Wow, she's really girly and cute" I thought as I gave her a smile, and that's when I saw it...
There's something poking out from between her legs!?
I asked a friend of mine (who were sniggering away next to me) "Is that... so-some kind of accessory or something?", but he wouldn't say.
"Hmm, I didn't really get what that festival was all about."
As we headed back to the station, my friend couldn't contain his laughter, and yet I felt rather unsatisfied. Well anyway, it was amazing how many foreign tourists there were! Around 70% of the audience were foreigners.
Suddenly a crowd of people appeared, so we went to see what was going on.
And there in front of us was the gleaming black ornament we'd seen before, being carried down the street!
And that's not all...
Next, a pink portable shrine made its entrance. As it appeared, shrieks rose up from the audience, or maybe they were shouts of joy...
I lied. I love dirty jokes, and I went to that festival knowing exactly what it was all about. It was really fun.
The Kanamara Matsuri is held every year in April at Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki.
The festival dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868), and it's said that it aids fertility, easy delivery during childbirth, a harmonious marriage, and protects against sexually transmitted infections. Many people come to pray for the success of infertility treatment, or for protection against AIDS, so this festival certainly isn't just for fun.
I'd like to end with a word from some foreign visitors to the festival.
"No way are Japanese people always serious and hard-working! They're the craziest people in the world!"