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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

The Onbashira Matsuri is one of the most exciting and unique festivals in Japan. It is held every 6 years in the Suwa region, located in the Nagano prefecture. The festival is a celebration of Shinto beliefs and involves the transportation and raising of massive tree trunks.

The Preparation

The festival is not just a one-day event. It takes months of preparation to ensure that everything goes smoothly. The first step of the preparation is to find the trees. The trees are cut down from the mountains in the Suwa region, and selected based on certain characteristics. Only the straightest and strongest trees are chosen, as they will be used to support the shrines. After the trees are selected, the community gathers for a purification ceremony. This is to cleanse and prepare the trees for the festival. The trees are then decorated with sacred ropes and symbols, which signify the presence of the gods.

The Transportation

Transporting the massive trees is no easy feat. They are pulled through the streets and up hillsides by groups of people who have trained for months. The procession is filled with shouts of “Saiyo, saiyo, o-inarisan!” which means “Come on, come on, Mr. Fox!”. Along the way, the trees are lifted over rivers and elevated onto wooden sleds. The journey takes several days, and ends at the various shrines in the area.

The Raising

Once the trees arrive at the shrines, it is time for the most thrilling part of the festival: the raising. The trees are raised up against the shrine buildings, which can be up to 16 meters high. Participants climb the trees and attach ropes to pull them upright. This is an incredibly dangerous task, and many injuries have occurred in the past. However, it is seen as an honor to be chosen for this task.

The Conclusion

After the trees are raised, there is a huge celebration that lasts for several days. Food vendors, performances, and fireworks can be enjoyed by all who attend. The festival comes to a conclusion when the trees are taken down and returned to the mountains. It is a bittersweet moment, as the community reflects on the hard work and dedication that went into the festival.


The Onbashira Matsuri is truly a breathtaking event that brings together the entire community. It is a celebration of tradition and a test of strength and courage. If you have the opportunity to attend this festival, it is definitely an experience that you will never forget.
Historic Fortresses