The History of our Shinto Shrine

Way back in the mid 70’s, the original owners of Lovecraft were approached by a New York Art Gallery, who specialized in erotic art work from all over the world, to purchase their collection. The New York Gallery was closing their doors. Anne and Mary agreed to purchase the entire erotic art work collection. Pieces included, Pre-Columbian work, many Japanese prints, erotic art work sketches. Anne and Mary sold some pieces right away through auction, many others they kept. Many were displayed throughout the Yorkville and Mississauga locations. The Shinto Shrine and Phallus being one of the most popular erotic art work pieces in the sex shop.

Up until this last move we’ve resisted selling the shrine and phallus as we’ve enjoyed it so much over the years. The shrine itself is original and the phallus was commissioned in the 70’s when Anne and Mary purchased the collection. In this most recent move for Lovecraft, we didn’t have a proper display area for it, so we considered our options.

Custom & History

The Shinto Kanamara Matsuri , (“Festival of the Steel Phallus”) is held each spring at the Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki, Japan. The exact dates vary: the main festivities fall on the first Sunday in April. The phallus, as the central theme of the event, is reflected in illustrations, candy, carved vegetables, decorations, and a mikoshi parade. The 2018 date was April 1st. This particular festival began in 1969, but fertility festivals date back centuries. The festival’s inspiration reportedly goes way back. In the 17th century, a 1-meter “Steel Phallus” was reportedly erected by a local blacksmith that honored Shinto deities of fertility and childbirth. Prostitutes were believed to have prayed there for protection from sexual diseases. The current festival raises funds for HIV awareness.

Nowadays, “People come to pray for good fortune and to ask the gods to protect them,” Hiroyuki Nakamura, a local priest of the shrine, told AFP. “The festival is steeped in the past but still has a valuable part to play in modern society.”

Shinto legend tells that the emperors of Japan are descended in an unbroken line from the first Emperor, Jimmu Tenno, Amaterasu-Omikami’s great-grandson. The native Japanese people themselves are descended from the kami who were present at the founding of Japan.

In the 6th century Buddhism was imported into Japanese religious life and Buddhism and Shinto together began to play a part in Japanese government. The Emperor and court had to perform religious ceremonies to make sure that the kami looked after Japan and its people. A court liturgical calendar was developed.

Over the next few centuries Buddhist influence in government grew stronger. The 17th century was dominated by state-imposed Buddhism (with many Shinto elements) as a reaction against an outside threat posed by Christian missionaries.

Japanese civic religion in the 17th century still included elements of Confucianism, while popular religion consisted mainly of Buddhism and Shinto. There was a movement towards a purer Shinto during the next two centuries, culminating in the Meiji Restoration towards the end of the 19th century, when Shinto became the established religion of Japan for a time.

Beyond the myths, there’s also a historical reason behind the prayers for protection and happiness at Kanayama. The city of Kawasaki was a stop for those who traveled along the Tokaido Road between Edo and cities in western parts of Japan. As a “pit stop” for travelers on the Tokaido, Kawasaki had “tea houses” that not only served as a rest stop for food and drink, but also as brothels where travelers could buy time with prostitutes. These prostitutes often visited the Kanayama Shrine as a way to pray for protection against venereal diseases, and it is said that they established the celebration of health and fertility at the Kanamara Matsuri.

Our shrine held a place of honour in three of our four bricks and mortar sex shops over the years.

When our customers would browse and shop in Yorkville (Toronto) or Mississauga, they would also enjoy incredible erotic art displayed throughout our sex shop.

When we made this most recent move, we realized that we could no longer really honour the remainder of our artwork and most especially our very special Shinto Shrine. We reached out to our customers and former staff to see if there was any interest and you responded! Obviously the art meant as much to you as it meant to us. The Shinto Shrine was a bit of a conundrum, we knew it was special, we researched value but we also really wanted it to go to a really good home, a place where it would be honoured and appreciated. And wow, something darn wonderful happened….

New Life

A customer reached out to us, after we sent out our “We’re moving online” newsletter. He expressed interest in our Shinto Shrine. He remembered exactly where it was in our Yorkville locations and just always appreciated it. After a series of friendly email exchanges, we all took that leap…our Shinto Shrine has a new home, that really is perfect for it. We know it will be enjoyed as a beautiful piece of art but also understood as a sacred object.

There is an expression the only constant is change and wow is that ever true! Our erotic art work have new homes and new people to appreciate them. Our Shinto Shrine has a very place of honour in a beautiful home. Our offices / warehouse space is gradually taking shape. We’re developing new routines and new customs, feeling productive and creative, breathing new life into our new online site, so thank you for your part in the journey. Let us know what you think about the new site or products whenever you get a chance.


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