Tokyo:A giant penis shrine was paraded through the streets of Kawasaki city, south of Tokyo, on Sunday as crowds turned out to celebrate the Steel Phallus festival. The popular festival (Kanamara Matsuri) is marked annually on the first Sunday in April, attracting hundreds of visitors from both inside and outside Japan, Efe news agency reported. Participants on Sunday sucked on phallus-shaped lollipops and posed for photographs in phallus-shaped masks as several men pushed the portable penis shrine through the street, witnesses said. But while attendees jovially pay tribute to the male member, there is also a serious message behind the event. The festival of the Steel Phallus originates from the legend of a sharp-toothed demon that hid inside the vagina of a young woman and castrated two men on their wedding nights. The woman then sought help from a blacksmith, who fashioned an iron phallus to break the demon's teeth, which led to its enshrinement. The shrine then became renowned as a site for sex workers to pray for good business and protection from sexually transmitted diseases. The annual festival now celebrates fertility, relationships and safe sex practices. The shrine, believed to aid fertility, is often visited by couples hoping to start a family, while the festival has also become popular with Japan's gay, lesbian and transgender communities, and among groups raising money and awareness for AIDS prevention.