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Onbashira Matsuri: An Exploration of the Thrilling Ceremony involving the Transportation of Massive Tree Trunks in the Mountains of Nagano

The Tradition of Onbashira Matsuri

Onbashira Matsuri is a traditional festival that has been celebrated for over 1,200 years in the Suwa region of Nagano, Japan. The festival is held every six years and is a celebration of renewal, in which massive tree trunks are transported down the mountainside and erected in various locations.

The Transportation of the Onbashira

The centerpiece of the festival is the transportation of the onbashira, or “sacred pillars”. Teams of men work together to manually haul these massive tree trunks, sourced from the forests of the Suwa region, down steep and rugged mountain paths. The journey is perilous and requires a high degree of skill, strength, and coordination. Along the way, these “polemen” must navigate water crossings, rocky terrain, and steep inclines.

The Erection of the Onbashira

Once the onbashira have been transported to their destination, they are erected in various spots in the Suwa region. This is also no easy feat, requiring teams of workers to use ropes, levers, and brute strength to pull the massive pillars into position. This spectacle is watched by thousands of spectators, who turn out to witness the ceremony and celebrate the renewal of life and the community.

A Thrilling and Fearsome Tradition

While the Onbashira Matsuri is a celebration of life, it is also a thrilling and fearsome affair. The transportation of the onbashira is fraught with danger, and there have been several fatalities in the history of the festival. For those involved, however, the ceremony is a source of pride and tradition, and an opportunity to come together as a community.


The Onbashira Matsuri is a unique and fascinating cultural experience, celebrating both the renewal of life and the challenges and thrills of traditional ceremony. It is a testament to the strength and skill of the peoples of the Suwa region, and a celebration of the timeless values of community, tradition, and renewal.
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