The first part of this post is fine for everyone to read, the second part is optional. That second part is why we went, but it would definitely offend some people if I didn't give fair warning.
At the Kawasakidaishi station, there is a place to get snacks, drinks, and newspapers. Conveniently placed next to two other drink vending machines (not pictured). You can't have too many vending machines here.
But, you know, it's everything you need if you have some time to kill. I approve!
The shrine itself is small, but as well-kept as any other. This first picture was taken around 10am; it got more crowded as the morning progressed.
People are in line to ring the bell, I assume it's for good luck and/or fertility. Healthy children, that sort of thing. (Edit: it's to get the attention of the gods for prayer, if I'm reading the explanation in the comments correctly.)
Shortly after we arrived, this random tiny old Japanese man tapped Husband on the shoulder and gestured for the two of us to follow him. He led us through the crowd to point out some of the...landmarks...and to take our picture in front of them with my camera. I haven't the faintest idea why, but it was amusing.
He approached us a couple other times, too. One was to get our picture with this person in traditional costume:
And the other was to give us this event poster:
After that, he just vanished into the crowd.
Well, I'm sure he was around, I just didn't see him after that.
Nearby was a monkey show. The guy is wearing a wig, which I found curious.
On the edge of the shrine grounds is a preschool.
Next to the preschool, the cub scouts were making curry or soup for sale. To the right of this photo, they have a booth where they were taking donations for disaster relief.
Also nearby, some costumed people are having a picnic under the cherry blossoms.
The sakura aren't out as much as I expected they would be; maybe it will be more obvious next week, and maybe I've been going to the wrong places so far this year.
Near the main shrine building, food stands were set up. Unfortunately, nearly everything had meat in it, so I didn't get a chance to eat those delicious-looking pancakes.
Early in the afternoon there was a ceremonial dance.
I've come to the realization that outside of a fantasy/scifi convention, Japan is probably the only place you can go to any random event or landmark and see people in pajama costumes.
(The guy in front...is his costume smoking a cigar? That's weird. Even for dudes wearing footie pajamas in public.)
Since I couldn't eat the food at the shrine, we wandered a few blocks away for lunch at an Italian restaurant. On the way, I saw these. I don't know anything about them other than they're cool.
This brings us to the end of Part I. To see Part II, click the text below.
By clicking this link I acknowledge that I will see the REAL reason they went to this festival. I also acknowledge that it may not be safe for work.
Kanamara Matsuri is sometimes translated as the Iron Penis Festival. If the Internet is to be believed, it comes from a legend of an oni (demon, although the term doesn't always have the same connotations as it does in a Christian context; they're not all inherently evil) that fell in love with a girl engaged to be married. She spurned him and he crawled up into her naughty bits and castrated her husband on their wedding night. He did the same to her second husband. So some monks made an iron penis to defeat the oni. I don't know if there is more to the story than that or if anybody lived happily ever after, that's all I've seen in my (somewhat cursory) research.
The penis is also a symbol of (male) power. This brings up some feminist issues with me because in a lot of ways women don't have equal social standing here or in a lot of industrialized countries, but I choose to set those aside for this festival, because the whole thing was in good fun. Nobody was naked or acting suggestively but not inappropriately. There were a lot of fake penises, but nothing shocking beyond that. There were a lot of foreigners and a handful of transvestites in attendance.
Modernly, it's a celebration of spring and fertility and life where they parade around a giant fake phallus and have some traditional dances and ceremonies.
Unfortunately, the parade was canceled this year, but people still lined up to get photos.
I mentioned earlier the random old guy that led us to some...landmarks...to take our picture with my camera. This is that landmark. Obviously this is not us, but you'll have to take my word for it that we had our tourist photo taken.
Next to the giant phallus was a small wooden structure for people to put up prayer plaques; from the designs I assume they are for fertility and healthy babies.
The best part was the mural on the ceiling.
On the floor is an anvil...someone told us you have to sit on it to make it work. No thank you!
Of course we also found the kind of souvenirs you would expect.
In the morning, the candles were well stocked in a wide array of sizes and colors.
Less so in the afternoon.
It's hard to tell, but next to the glasses is a squirt gun.
The guy running one booth gave us each one of these cards. I have no idea what it says other than the name of the festival. (Edit: I'm told it says, "May your offspring/descendants flourish/prosper")
All manner of charms and charm-like things, most of them inappropriate in other situations.
A nearly classy pattern...
By our lollicocks combined...
This picture is definitely one of my favorites. She knew I was taking the picture of the lollipop, but she didn't know she was going to be in it. I just love the look on her face.
Also available in three-packs (from a different booth).
By late morning, the vendor stands were mobbed.
Decorated tabletop display.
It's a wind up willy on wheels!
We got the distinct impression that people were walking up to us just to show things to the foreigners. Like this guy showed us his key chain with the string. Pardon that I forget how to say things properly in Japanese when I'm in an on-the-street situation, so I told him I was shooting video in very poor Japanese ("video" as opposed to "oh, sorry, this is video" or "I'm taking video"), but I did immediately thank him for playing along.
Okay, so there was a little bit of inappropriate behavior. But it's all in good fun, people were coming up to pose for pictures with this guy (I'll call him Richard) when he wasn't waving his comically large dildo around like a torch. (Later he posed for pictures on the steps of the preschool...that SO wouldn't fly in the US.)
Note that Richard is also taking a picture.
Seriously. Only in Japan can you get a photo of a bunch of guys wearing costume pajamas taking pictures of a guy wearing a penis hat.
We saw this while we were out getting lunch. TANUKI! (Why is this in the optional section, you might ask? Because he's not sitting on a tree stump.)
Upon our return to the festival, we caught Richard on his lunch break and he let Husband try on his hat.
I'm such a lucky girl.
This guy was actually posing for photos that his wife was taking. There's something extra funny about old people wearing penis glasses. And looking serious! So serious!
This is a snack we got at the end of the day, purchased in a conbini in our neighborhood. It has nothing to do with the festival, but it's even funnier because of it.