Mara-kannon Temple (a.k.a. Penis Temple!)

What better way to start the day than with a temple featuring a load of phallic-shaped structures! As ever with such places there was a slightly more serious meaning behind the facade and one that is of great importance to my wife and I at the moment.


When we left my parents-in-law’s apartment to embark on a short two day-one night trip around some places in Yamaguchi prefecture I wasn’t even aware of this quirky temple. However, at the eleventh hour I did a quick search (in Japanese) of quirky sights in the area (as I tend to do quite often) and came across this temple which just happened to be quite close to where we were staying the night in Nagato.

As my father-in-law had driven us all to Akiyoshido Cave and Motonosumi Inari Shrine (two places of my choosing!) on day one in Yamaguchi, I was in two minds whether to mention it or not. However, when he asked at night if there was anywhere I wanted to go in the area the following day I couldn’t resist speaking up.

Regular Tokyo Fox readers may recall that earlier this year I visited a boobie temple in Yamaguchi-ken but this time it was the male anatomy which would take preference. Though they are both in the same prefecture they really are a long, long way apart (0ver 100 kilometres) and even further from Kawasaki in Kanagawa-ken which hosts a penis festival every year (yes, really!!) in early April. The child in me is still easily amused by such things and, though I’ve been to a penis shrine in Bangkok, this was my first temple of this kind in Japan. I am aware of there being others but they always seem to be in very remote areas.

This temple was only a 20 minute detour from our ryokan in Nagato and there wasn’t a soul in sight. A sign on the opposite side of the road (below) tells you that you are at the right place and there is a small car park just beyond it.


What was strange was that none of my family even questioned my reason to go there! As we approached the place I told them that it was a b-grade sight and not in any guidebook or pamphlet about the area. Thankfully they all saw the funny side when they realised the kind of place I’d brought them to!


Mara-kannon temple is a fairly small place located at the side of route 281 amidst the forest. There is a small wooden main temple which people wanting to be blessed with children go to which was quite fitting as we are hoping to have a baby but no such luck as yet!


There is a smaller wooden shrine to the side of the main one and both of them possess a load of phallic-shaped ornament pieces which would look good on anyone’s mantlepiece!


The temple has something of a sad history with a complicated story featuring an attack or two culminating in a boy having his member cut off resulting in villagers feeling pity for him and so this place was built to appease his spirit. Proof, if ever, that there is always a more serious meaning to places which seem funny from the outside.

Click here to read ‘A Night In Nagato And A Trip To Hagi’

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan
This entry was posted in Japan Life, Japan Travel, Quirky Japan and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Mara-kannon Temple (a.k.a. Penis Temple!)

  1. Pingback: A Night In Nagato And A Trip To Hagi | Tokyo Fox (東京狐)

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  3. timtak says:

    > I told them that it was a b-grade sight and not in any guidebook or pamphlet about the area.
    The temple was the largest entry in the Lonely Planet backpackers guidebook pages on Yamaguchi when I last looked. The local Tawarayama Tourist information centre keeps a photocopy of the pages and proudly showed the to me. There were only three pages on the whole prefecture, and Mara Kannon took up half a page. Its not in the latest version though it seems.

    • tokyofox says:

      Oh really? haha! Not the first time i’ve been wrong! I was using a couple of Japanese language guide books and my LP book (admittedly a very old one) didn’t mention it! Anyway, glad it features in some tourist info

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  5. Kristine Thomas says:

    Thank you posting your article about this “penis temple”. I was interested because I saw in a documentary about religious practices around the world, a Japanese couple visit this site who were seeking a blessing to have a child. I was rather appalled at first but I got over that quickly and became very curious. So, your article and excellent photos satisfied my curiosity! Good luck with producing a child.

    • tokyofox says:

      Thanks very much Kristine! This post seems to have had many hits recently which surprised me as it didn’t really get them when I originally posted. Anyway, thats the beauty of the net I guess and posts don’t always get the most attention when they are first posted. Thanks a lot for the final thought too. Over a year later now and still no luck sadly!

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