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Sunday, April 6

Revisiting the Kanamara Matsuri (the Festival of the Steel Phallus)

If you recall last year, I went to a place where it is all about fertility, and more dramatically, the penis. (Click here for last year’s valuable history lesson.) This place is a very unique spot in Japan, known for its yearly festival when the cherry blossoms are blooming above and the wind blows pretty pink petals down to rest on top of the huge pink penis on top of the mikoshi as it was carried out of the torii gate and down the street in front of the famous Shinto shrine.

This year’s trip to the festival was a lot different from my trip last year. First, if you hadn’t heard the news, a Navy sailor admitted to committing the murder of a Japanese taxi driver a few weeks ago. The fact of this occurrence makes for a rather shaken political relationship between our Japanese hosts and we Americans living here. The fact that one man can so badly damage the ties between Japanese and American is a shame. While many Japanese know that this is an anomaly and we are not all crazed killers, there are still so many Japanese that do not personally know an American and are left to make their own judgments off of what they are told from the press about us. Since I had moved to Japan, I always have tried to play by their roles. Their country – their way of life. I’m reserved and quiet when I ought to be, show respect to them in the same way they show it to me, and generally try to be a model of behavior so that the Japanese around me can see how much I appreciate them for their acceptance of me and my place within their culture. Which is why it is so hard when things like this happen, things that shatter the trust built by the rest of us gaijin in Japan.

What’s done is done. All we can home for now is that we will all move forward together, and let this incident be a reminder to each foreigner that any inappropriate, and especially criminal, behavior hurts not only themselves, but everyone else living on this island.

Because of this latest incident and the subsequent confession, the Yokosuka base was put on a lockdown status. Now, I don’t live on base, but that doesn’t mean this doesn’t affect me. For reasons I can’t discuss over the internet, it actually has a lot to do with me, so I am left to play by the rules of the lockdown. These rules are meant for Americans associated with the Yokosuka base to take on a period of reflection regarding the recent events. There’s a lot I can say about this, both good and bad, but I do agree on the necessity of something like this being put into place. In my agreement with reflection, it probably is not good faith that I write about this incident at the same time that I show you pictures of such tomfoolery. I do hope you can overlook that little fact.

However, one rule from the reflection period that makes the Steel Phallus Festival quite difficult to fully enjoy is the “no drinking” rule. This rule alone did the most damage to the day’s shenanigans. Because frankly, hanging out with phallic images swimming along every eye line, is just a bit uncomfortable. The group we were with this year is a more reserved group to start with, made only more ill at ease without even the possibility of a drink to lighten their mood. So there was no hanging off the big wooden penis this year. There was no sitting on the wee penis this year. There was one incident of touching, but the rest of the day was left to observe those who were still imbibing on the available fun juice.

What is worse than not fully participating is missing the main event, when the huge pink penis mikoshi is floated out of the gate… and I did just that. My stomach would not give me a break in its constant begging for food, so I was in the weiner line and missed the whole damn thing. Nonetheless, I still think I got my yearly dose of fertility while roaming the grounds of the shrine.

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