Tuesday, 21 April 2009

A tale of the phallus in two cities

The other day, while I was talking to my mother over the phone, she told me about a radio talk show host's discussion about the statues at Emancipation Park. Again.

Ever since the statues were unveiled, the [then PNP] government and the National Housing Trust (the group responsible for the project) have been the subject of some vicious criticism. One website even called the statues "pornographic". And why?

Personally, I think it's just because of the penis.

I don't think I'm reaching with that statement. Before I left Jamaica in August 2002, all anybody talked about was how big the penis is - how grotesque this naked male form is (especially next door to the posh Liguanea Club and across the street from the Hilton Kingston, the Jamaica Pegasus and the Courtleigh Hotel). Never mind the naked female form facing it, the penis is what we should all be concerned about for the sake of our children or some such nonsense.

I had long gotten over the nonsensical discussion about Emancipation Park, but when my mother reminded me about it, she did so after commenting on a phallic experience I recently had here in Japan. She marvelled at how Japanese people were not culturally bogged down by archaic, imperialist-imposed morals when it came to the human form. 

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I went to the Kanamara Matsuri, held at a shrine dedicated to a steel penis.

Yes, a steel penis. 

Actually, this steel penis:

So, the story about this steel penis goes like this (basically):

A young woman had a demon inhabiting her vagina. Each time she got married, however, the demon would bite off the penis of the groom. One day, a priest built a steel penis which tricked the demon into biting it, thereby breaking off its teeth.

I found this festival hilarious/amusing/shocking/interesting. I cannot really comment on it further than saying how refreshing it was to be in a place where people didn't have these stringent (and hypocritical) hang-ups when it comes to the human form. What I will do for the remainder of this post, though, is let the pictures speak for themselves (with a few captions).

The usual Japanese festival fare: stalls selling various food items including, but not limited to, yakitori, yakisoba and crepes (and, of course, beer).

One of the mikoshi featuring a black penis.

Another mikoshi featuring a pink penis.

Penis candy for sale at the festival.

Carvings made out of daikon (Japanese radish).

What else can I say? It was an interesting day. Also, if I may add, Jamaican people need to chill regarding the statues at Emancipation Park. Seriously.

P.S. - By the way, for all the readers out there, check out Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra when you have the chance.