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Heads Turn As Thousands Attend Japan's Infamous Penis Festival

We don't know which way to look!

In the West, April 1 is April Fool's Day. But in the Japanese city of Kawasaki, Sunday was Kanamara Matsuri, the annual penis festival, where participants worship a giant black phallus carried through the streets.

Carl Court/Getty Images

KAWASAKI, JAPAN - APRIL 01: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains suggestive content.) A large black phallic-shaped 'Mikoshi' is carried to Kanayama Shrine during Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus) on April 1, 2018 in Kawasaki, Japan. The Kanamara Festival is held annually on the first Sunday of April. The penis is the central theme of the festival, focused at the local penis-venerating shrine which was once frequented by prostitutes who came to pray for business prosperity and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Today the festival has become a popular tourist attraction and is used to raise money for HIV awareness and research. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

There were units of all sizes and colors on display, actually, from phallic popsicles and novelty noses to a giant pink member called "Elizabeth Mikoshi" donated by a local drag club. Tens of thousands of spectators flood the city, grabbing penis-shaped key chains, pens, chocolates and more.

chris mcgrath

KAWASAKI, JAPAN - APRIL 06: People pose for photos in front of a large pink phallic-shaped 'Mikoshi' during Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus) on April 6, 2014 in Kawasaki, Japan. The Kanamara Festival is held annually on the first Sunday of April. The penis is the central theme of the festival, focused at the local penis-venerating shrine which was once frequented by prostitutes who came to pray for business prosperity and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Today the festival has become a popular tourist attraction and is used to raise money for HIV awareness and research. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
KAWASAKI, JAPAN - APRIL 01: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains suggestive content.) A woman eats a phallic-shaped lollipop during Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus) on April 1, 2018 in Kawasaki, Japan. The Kanamara Festival is held annually on the first Sunday of April. The penis is the central theme of the festival, focused at the local penis-venerating shrine which was once frequented by prostitutes who came to pray for business prosperity and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Today the festival has become a popular tourist attraction and is used to raise money for HIV awareness and research. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
KAWASAKI, JAPAN - APRIL 01: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains suggestive content.) Women react to the camera as they eat phallic-shaped lollipops during Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus) on April 1, 2018 in Kawasaki, Japan. The Kanamara Festival is held annually on the first Sunday of April. The penis is the central theme of the festival, focused at the local penis-venerating shrine which was once frequented by prostitutes who came to pray for business prosperity and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Today the festival has become a popular tourist attraction and is used to raise money for HIV awareness and research. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Chris McGrath/Getty

KAWASAKI, JAPAN - APRIL 06: A man poses for photographers with a large wooden phallic sculpture during Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus) on April 6, 2014 in Kawasaki, Japan. The Kanamara Festival is held annually on the first Sunday of April. The penis is the central theme of the festival, focused at the local penis-venerating shrine which was once frequented by prostitutes who came to pray for business prosperity and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Today the festival has become a popular tourist attraction and is used to raise money for HIV awareness and research. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Chris McGrath/Getty

KAWASAKI, JAPAN - APRIL 06: A man buys a phallic-shaped candle at the Wakamiya Hachimangu shrine during Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus) on April 6, 2014 in Kawasaki, Japan. The Kanamara Festival is held annually on the first Sunday of April. The penis is the central theme of the festival, focused at the local penis-venerating shrine which was once frequented by prostitutes who came to pray for business prosperity and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Today the festival has become a popular tourist attraction and is used to raise money for HIV awareness and research. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Chris McGrath/Getty

KAWASAKI, JAPAN - APRIL 06: A man wears a phallic-shaped mask as he moves through the crowd at the Wakamiya Hachimangu shrine during Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus) on April 6, 2014 in Kawasaki, Japan. The Kanamara Festival is held annually on the first Sunday of April. The penis is the central theme of the festival, focused at the local penis-venerating shrine which was once frequented by prostitutes who came to pray for business prosperity and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Today the festival has become a popular tourist attraction and is used to raise money for HIV awareness and research. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Chris McGrath/Getty

KAWASAKI, JAPAN - APRIL 06: A woman poses for a photo, eating a phallic-shaped candy lollipop during Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus) on April 6, 2014 in Kawasaki, Japan. The Kanamara Festival is held annually on the first Sunday of April. The penis is the central theme of the festival, focused at the local penis-venerating shrine which was once frequented by prostitutes who came to pray for business prosperity and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Today the festival has become a popular tourist attraction and is used to raise money for HIV awareness and research. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Carl Court

KAWASAKI, JAPAN - APRIL 01: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains suggestive content.) A man wear a phallic-shaped hat during Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus) on April 1, 2018 in Kawasaki, Japan. The Kanamara Festival is held annually on the first Sunday of April. The penis is the central theme of the festival, focused at the local penis-venerating shrine which was once frequented by prostitutes who came to pray for business prosperity and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Today the festival has become a popular tourist attraction and is used to raise money for HIV awareness and research. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

According to legend, a demon possessed a woman's vagina, biting any penis that would try to enter her. After her husband was bitten twice, the maiden went to a blacksmith and got a custom-made steel dildo. When the demon bit down on it, he broke his teeth and was vanquished. (Another story says the shrine was popular with sex workers in the 1600s, who would pray for protection from sexually transmitted infections.)

Held on the first Sunday of April since 1969, the Kanamara Matsuri, or Festival of the Steel Phallus, celebrates fertility and reproduction. In more recent years its also been used to raise awareness about HIV, STDs and male reproductive issues. Donations received at the event are used for HIV research.