A shrine associated with a famous Japanese penis festival has distanced itself from a penis costume used as an unofficial mascot for the event.
Every year in spring, thousands of people including locals and tourists descend on a shrine in Kanagawa prefecture, near the Japanese capital Tokyo, to celebrate the penis as a fertility symbol on the first Sunday of April.
The bizarre festival, which sees giant statues of erect penises paraded throughout the streets, is at the heart of the Kanamara Matsuri (‘Festival of the Steel Phallus’).
Legend has it that a demon once sought to take revenge on a woman who had rejected him, hiding inside her vagina and biting down on her husband’s manhood with its razor-sharp teeth so that she would not have children.
The demon would systematically bite off the penis of any man who tried to have sex with her.
To solve the problem, the woman got a blacksmith to make her a steel phallus which ultimately broke the demon’s teeth and allowed her to be fertile again.
A replica of the phallus is preserved in the Kanamara shrine and the famous penis festival – celebrating love, fertility and marital happiness – evolved around it with the sacred items taken out of the shrine and paraded on floats carried by worshippers during the Kanamara Matsuri, also known as the ‘Iron Penis Festival’.
The festival is big business, with a number of stallholders and shops selling all sorts of phallic goods.
Three official portable shrines represent the celebration: a black iron phallus, a wooden phallus and a bright pink phallus.
One unofficial mascot, however, a man dressed in a penis costume, is not part of the official trio.
And this year the Kanayama Shrine has sought to distance itself from the unofficial mascot.
The Kanayama Shrine is quoted in a statement as saying: “As of March 2023, there are no official mascots for our Kanamara Festival.
“We do not officially recognise the costumed mascot called ‘Gachachin’, which is being treated as an official mascot on the Internet, in any way whatsoever.
“The maker of the costume performed without permission, but took the costume off in the end, so the shrine discarded it.”