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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 Onbashira Matsuri: A Celebration of Strength and Tradition

Deep in the heart of Japan’s Nagano Prefecture lies the small town of Suwa. Every six years, the quiet village is transformed into a hub of activity for the Onbashira Matsuri, a centuries-old festival that celebrates the region’s rich cultural traditions.

The Tradition of Onbashira Matsuri

Onbashira Matsuri, also known as the “honored-pillar festival”, dates back over 1200 years and is considered one of Japan’s most exhilarating cultural events. During the festival, massive tree trunks are transported from the surrounding mountains to the Suwa Grand Shrine. Once reaching the shrine, the logs are put in place to support the shrine’s foundation.

The Preparation

The Onbashira Matsuri begins in April and lasts for three months. The first phase of the event involves choosing the trees that will be used to carry the logs, which must be between 700 and 1200 years old. Once chosen, the logs are carefully felled by hand and transported to the shrine grounds. The next phase of the festival involves the transportation of the logs from the mountains to the shrine. This task is not for the faint-hearted, as it involves carrying the massive trees down steep mountain slopes, across raging rivers, and through narrow village streets. The logs are pulled using ropes by men and women who risk their lives to uphold the tradition.

The Celebration

Once the logs arrive at the shrine grounds, the final phase of the festival begins. The logs are erected upright and decorated with garlands and flags. Then, a group of skilled artisans climb the logs to affix copper spikes to the top, which symbolize the beginning of a new era. The spikes are fitted with 12-foot long bamboo poles, which brave individuals ride down the logs, resulting in some wild and incredible moments.


The Onbashira Matsuri festival is a celebration of strength, tradition, and bravery. It’s an event that brings together the entire community and celebrates the importance of culture and heritage. No one knows how long the festival will continue, but one thing is certain: the Onbashira Matsuri is a stunning tribute to the strength and endurance of the human spirit.
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