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Venerating the Mighty Penis

The Shinto Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus) is held each spring at the Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki, Japan. The exact dates vary: the main festivities fall on the first Sunday in April, which this year fell on the 2nd.

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Thousands flooded the streets of Kawasaki on Sunday as festival-goers snapped selfies with penis sculptures, bought various forms of penis memorabilia and sucked on penis-shaped lollipops as the procession made its way to the Kanayama Shrine for consecration.

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Since the festival started in 1969 it has become a major tourist attraction and is used to raise awareness about safe sex, fundraise for HIV research and celebrate fertility.

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Legend has it that around the 17th century, a jealous demon hid inside the vagina of a woman when his love was unrequited, biting off the penises of her first two husbands. Together the cursed woman and a blacksmith fashioned a steel penis to break the demon’s teeth and rid him forever.

Prostitutes would also reportedly pray to the Kanamara shrine for protection from sexually transmitted diseases.