04/04/2014 07:10 EDT | Updated 04/04/2014 07:59 EDT

Kanamara Matsuri: When Does Japan's Penis Festival Start? (NSFW PHOTOS)

Koichi Kamoshida via Getty Images
KAWASAKI, JAPAN - APRIL 04: A visitor rides on a wooden phallic figure during the Kanamara Festival, or the Utamaro Festival, near Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine on April 4, 2010 in Kawasaki, Japan. The annual feritility festival, held traditionally in the cherry blossom season since the Edo era (1603-1868), is said to encourage fertility and bring harmony to married couples. In recent times the festival has raised awareness of AIDS prevention. (Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)

For some, Kanamara Matsuri is Japanese for "Festival of the Steel Phallus," but to everyone else, it's known as Japan's annual penis festival.

At first glance, the scenes from Kanamara Matsuri seem like something out of an X-rated movie. Giant phallic-shaped statues, ornaments and even treats are all on display on the streets near the Kanayama shrine in Kawasaki, Japan.

The festival is held on the first Sunday of April and falls on April 7 this year. It's a tradition that dates as far back as Japan's Edo era in the 16th century.

Back then, prostitutes would gather outside the shrine to pray for good business and protection from sexually transmitted diseases.

Over time, the festival has shifted in meaning and now celebrates the easy delivery of babies and long-lasting marriages. It also helps raise funds and awareness for HIV research, according to Fest 300.

While there's no shortage of phalluses during Kanamara Matsuri, the main event is the mikoshi parade in which women and men dressed as women carry three penis sculptures down to the Kanayama shrine.

Of the three, there's the omikoshi, a giant pink penis altar and the Kanamara Fune Mikoshi, an even bigger steel penis altar.

The Kanamara Fune Mikoshi is steeped in Japanese lore.

Legend has it that an evil demon possessed the vagina of a young woman, giving it sharp teeth after she refused its advances. The toothed vagina then castrated the woman's first two fiancés who tried to have sex with her on their wedding nights.

The woman turned to a blacksmith for help. The blacksmith devised a plan: he would create a steel penis.

The demon, still possessing the vagina, fell for the trap when it bit down on the steel penis and broke all its teeth, protecting all future fiancés' penises.

Check out some NSFW photos from past Kanamara Matsuri events in the gallery below:

Photo gallery Kanamara Matsuri: Japan's Penis Festival (NSFW PHOTOS) See Gallery