Your online guide to exploring Japan's hidden and lesser-known wonders!

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 a unique festival celebrated every 6 years in the Suwa region of Nagano prefecture, Japan. This ancient festival involves transporting massive tree trunks from the surrounding mountains to the Suwa Taisha Shrine, forming part of the Great Shrine Architecture. The festival is known for its thrilling and dangerous ceremonies where the locals display their strength, courage, and skills.

The Ceremony

The ceremony is divided into two parts: the Yamadashi (ascending the mountains to find and cut the trees) and the Satobiki (transporting the trees downhill). The Yamadashi ceremony involves participants ascending the mountains, finding, and cutting down the trees to be used in the festival while being blessed by Shinto priests. The Satobiki ceremony takes place in spring, where the cut logs are cleaned before the locals tie ropes around them and slide them down steep slopes, across rivers and onto roads.

The Thrilling Events

The most thrilling and dangerous part of the Satobiki ceremony involves ‘Kiotoshi,’ which is a heart-stopping event in which locals ride logs down slopes. Men hang on for dear life while others jump onto the logs and ride them down the hill. The climax of the festival is when four massive, 60-foot logs are erected as pillars at the corners of the shrine, culminating in the ‘Raising Ceremony,’ where participants ride logs and hoist them over several hours.

History and Significance

The Onbashira Matsuri dates back to over a thousand years and has significant religious and cultural importance in Japan. The logs symbolize the renewal of the shrine and the cycle of life. The festival is also a way to bring the community together to celebrate and honor their traditions, culture, and spiritual beliefs. It also showcases the skills, strength, and bravery of the Japanese people.

The Bottom Line

The Onbashira Matsuri is a unique and thrilling festival celebrated in Japan, where locals showcase their strength, courage, and skills. The ceremony involves transporting massive tree trunks from the mountains, and the climax involves hoisting them over several hours to form part of the Great Shrine Architecture. The festival has significant religious and cultural importance in Japan and is a way to bring the community together to celebrate their traditions and spiritual beliefs.
Culinary Delights