My classmates and I recently made it to the Kanamara Festival in Kawasaki Japan. The picture above should give you some idea of what it’s about.
|It’s held at the Wakiyama Hachiman-gu Shrine close to the Kawasaki Daishi station. I had directions on how to get there and I had called the shrine to find out when the festival was and they also gave me some directions. They basically said to come to the station, exit and you’ll see it across from the station.
Well, we got there, I didn’t see anything that looked like a temple once we got outside the station but we did see a huge facade over one street that said Daishi Temple so we went that way. That street was all souvenir shops and so it seemed like maybe we were going the right way. After a few blocks it made a u-turn and was clearly approaching a huge temple.
|Just as we got to the temple though my friend Atsuko called. She lives very close to that area and was going to meet us there. When I told her where we were she said we had goofed up and to come back to the station.
It turns out Daishi is an enormous temple in Kawasaki but it is not the shrine we were looking for.
The one we were looking for was actually practically directly across from the station but it was very small and the shrine itself was blocked by another building so it was not obvious where it was.
|There were 3 main mikoshi which I guess would best be described as portable shrines. . There was the pink one (top). The black one (to the right) and the tree one (left). I have no idea what if any differences in meaning there are for the 3 mikoshi.|
Every festival has it’s drummers. Click here to here them play.
According to my friend Atsuko and also a little flyer she found, originally the shrine was to honor the gods of iron.
There was a iron working building and they were making swords. But, the history of the area is also that it used to be an area with lots of brothels and the workers used the temple to pray not to get syphilis and from that this festival started.
It is now considered good luck, good family etc to embrace one of the big phalluses or to ride the wooden phallus shaped see-saw.
At some point during the festival the mikoshi are picked up by a bunch of people and carried down the street through the center of down while dancing and shaking the mikoshi fairly vigorously. Interestingly, the pink mikoshi at this festival is carried by a group of drag queens.
|Just as they picked up the last mikoshi to carry it down the street they did some crazy shaking. Click here to see a video of it. It actually looks kind of dangerous to carry these things. They are carried by like 20 to 30 people each and they shake them all over and march down the street. People do help guide but it’s clearly hard to control 30 people like that. I saw a few people get hurt. Probably got their leg stepped on.|
|Most of them are wearing these cool looking but not very supportive boot things.
There are also all the candies as you can see below. It is especially interesting to walk around the festival and see people eating them all. Of course I picked a bunch up and handed them out to friends and teachers the next day.
The first package on the left is individually wrapped crackers. If you look closely each package has a picture or actually a card with a picture on it inside.
The pictures look like the ones to the left here. Click here if you want to see all of them. We all speculated if there was any purpose to them other than instruction. For example cut them out, put them in a hat and pick one at random. Or place one on your lover’s pillow before bed etc. We tried to get one of our married classmates to give it a try with her husband but we couldn’t get her to give it a try. Too bad.