We’ve all come across some of those in our travels, those sites which make us giggle, blush, point and take pictures which we look forward to showing our prudish parents. We all hesitate a little, sort of look around to check if someone’s listening, and then say, ‘That’s a penis’, as if it were the most abnormal, shameful word in existence. But the world is full of sex museums, fertility festivals, shrines, temples, and both ancient and modern sculptures depicting love making, enough, indeed, to make us blush a million times over. Here are some of the best and most curious sex and fertility related sites around the world.
Kanamara Matsuri – Kawasaki, Japan
For anyone whose main image of the Japanese is that of an orderly and conservative people, the Kanamara Matsuri, translated as festival of the steel phallus, may make little sense, but to those who know that there is a fun and silly side to the Japanese, it’s just another way for this fascinating Asian culture to have fun and celebrate fertility and sexuality.
This Shinto fertility festival traces its origin to a local shrine popular with prostitutes who visited the site to pray to be protected from sexually transmitted diseases, and whose yearly celebration now helps raise money for HIV/AIDS and attracts both happy locals and curious foreigners alike. But what makes this festival even more curious? Probably the giant pink penis which is paraded around the city and the many snacks, souvenirs and candy made in the shape of the male reproductive organ. And while the locals are perfectly used to this event, it is often the visiting traveler who cannot seem to contain a big grin when he sees an old grandmother licking away at a lollipop in the aforementioned shape.
>> Get tips for visiting Japan on a budget
Prostitution Information Centre – Amsterdam
There is probably no red light district more famous than the one in Amsterdam nor one which so significantly shapes a city’s reputation in the eyes of the traveler. But beyond the tacky sex shops catering for stag and hen’s parties and tourists looking to take home saucy souvenirs to show off, the red light district is also a source of income for many who choose to be in the prostitution business legally.
The Prostitution Information Centre, established in 1994 by former sex worker Mariska Majoor, provides free information to those interested in understanding this famous corner of Amsterdam. The centre tries to educate people and stresses that prostitution is not dirty or unhealthy, but simply a choice made by those who sell or buy sex in a legalised context. The centre also offers guided walking tours for a fee which take you through the district and ‘behind the scenes’ in the company of former or current sex workers. Money from this tour as well as that made through the centre’s partnership with the Wallenwinkel, or Red Light District Store, goes towards making sure that the centre continues to operate and give free information to its thousands of visitors each year.
>> Read all about Amsterdam’s Red Light District
Loveland – Jeju Island, South Korea
In the South Korean island of Jeju, a popular honeymoon destination for the locals on the mainland, is the weird and wonderful Loveland, a park filled with sculptures and artwork connected to sex and sexuality. Here, you will come across a beautiful woman about to drop a chili pepper into a vagina-like oyster, penis and breast-shaped handles on doors, sculptured couples in various copulating positions, and, actually, enough reproductive organs’ representations to last you a life time.
Beyond the funny side of the experience, the sculptures and exhibits are first and foremost works of art, and can definitely be appreciated as such, even if you’ll be tempted to pose for a couple of, let’s say ‘particular’ holiday snaps.
>> Read about other lesser-known islands
Museum of Sex – New York
The fact that the Museum of Sex, also known as MoSex, comes with a minimum age entry requirement of 18 should tell you that the exhibits here can get pretty explicit, but still, the museum, as its founder Daniel Gluck has said, is dedicated to “the history, evolution and cultural significance of human sexuality,” be it connected to pornography, prostitution, hetero or homosexuality. The collection features permanent as well as changing exhibitions including videos, artifacts, works of art, costumes and technological inventions which illustrate the history and development of sex.
>> Find more unusual museums in New York
Penis Park – Haeshindang, South Korea
We are back in South Korea, but this time on the mainland, at a seaside ‘attraction’ known as the Penis Park. Legend has it that the park was created in honor of a virgin who drowned in the nearby waters while she was picking seaweed. Following this tragic event, the village fishermen were suddenly faced with a dwindling catch until one day, one of the local men relieved his urge to visit the urinary by doing his business while facing the sea.
After this, the number of fish caught increased, and the locals realized that the exposed man must have pleased the restless soul of the dead virgin greatly. For this reason, they created the penis park, filled with, you guessed it, over 50 representations of the penis, so that she would have plenty of phalluses to feast her eyes and keep her happy and the fish coming.
>> Book flights to South Korea
Chao Mae Tuptim shrine – Bangkok
Located at the back of the Nai Lert Park Hotel, the Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine in Bangkok is not strictly speaking a fertility shrine, but the many representations of the penis in all shapes and sizes brought by worshippers wishing for children are its most striking feature.
As several visitors to the site have noted, while the sight may be somewhat comical for us Westerners, we should remember that these phallic symbols have been placed there by devoted people who believe their offering will help them start a family, so a good measure of respect is needed when visiting.
>> Find cheap things to do in Bangkok
China Sex Museum – Tongli, China
If being greeted by a grinning statue proudly showing a giant boner is your idea of fun, you should not miss the China Sex Museum. Originally located in Shanghai, it was recently moved to the town of Tongli, 80 km West of Shanghai.
The museum illustrates some 9000 years of Chinese sexual history from cave paintings depicting men with dangling penises to beautiful sculptures and artifacts showing couples in the act of love making, to a green, penis-sprinkled garden.
>> Discover some lesser-known places to visit in China
- 8 of the Greatest Nude Events in the World
- Best One Night Stand Destinations
- 12 Places to See Really Good Looking Locals