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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 unique festival that occurs every six years in the Suwa region of Nagano, Japan. The festival involves the transportation of gigantic tree trunks, or Onbashira, from the forested mountains to the shrines. This event is considered to be dangerous, thrilling, and symbolic of the community’s dedication to their traditions and values.

The Preparation

The preparation for Onbashira Matsuri begins years ahead of the actual event. Local men called Onbashira-yamisai work hard to cut down and transport the massive trees. On the day of the festival, four large tree trunks are chosen to be pulled to the shrines. They are then cut down, blessed, and decorated with traditional Japanese symbols and designs.

The Ceremony

The transportation of the Onbashira is done manually by carrying or dragging the massive trees down the mountain to the designated shrines. This is a perilous task as it involves sliding down steep slopes, crossing rivers, and navigating sharp turns. The men who participate in this transportation are considered to be the most skilled and respected members of the community.

The End

Once the Onbashira has been transported, the trees are erected and placed at the four corners of the Suwa Grand Shrine. This signifies the renewal of the shrine’s spiritual powers. The festival is concluded with a ceremony called Satobiki, where the community members gather together and celebrate their successful accomplishment while enjoying traditional Japanese activities like music, food, and dancing.

In Conclusion

Onbashira Matsuri is not only a festival, but it is also symbolic of the strength, values, and dedication of the Suwa community. It is the perfect example of how a small community can work together to achieve something that seems impossible and dangerous.
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