Let’s Talk About Sex
The story goes that in the 1600s, during Japan’s Edo period, local prostitutes would congregate at the Kanamara Shinto shrine in Kawasaki, where they’d pray for protection against sexually transmitted diseases. A more fantastic tale lies in the fabled “vagina dentata,” or toothed vagina, which supposedly castrated several poor young men on their wedding nights. The woman cursed with the toothed vagina (most likely a metaphor for syphilis, which was common then) went to see a blacksmith, who forged her an iron dildo in order to break the teeth of her inner demon, thus protecting the penis of her future suitor. The Kanamara shrine is dedicated to the blacksmith, and over the centuries sex workers have paid pilgrimage to the shrine to seek its powers of protection.