Every year, hundreds of camera wielding tourists gather around the Kanamara Shrine in Kawasaki, Japan to see something they’ll never get to see in their home towns — a large, twelve foot pink representation of a penis being held aloft by chanting men, and paraded down the street. It’s the annual Shinto fertility festival of Kanamara Matsuri also known as the Festival of the Steel Phallus.
Begun 300 years ago when prostitutes in the region began to pray to the shrine for protection from an epidemic of syphilis, the festival today draws women and men praying for fertility and health, and of course, gawking foreigners. The engorged penis is everywhere. Stalls sell colored lollipops shaped like phalluses, and there are phallic mementos from festivals past displayed in shops.