Onbashira Festival as presented by: Sacramento Bee

Onbashira is a festival held every six years in the Lake Suwa area of Nagano, Japan. The purpose of the festival is to symbolically renew the Suwa Taisha or Suwa Grand Shrine. "Onbashira" can be literally translated as "the honored pillars". Onbashira lasts several months, and consists of two segments, Yamadashi and Satobiki. Yamadashi traditionally takes place in April, and Satobiki takes place in May. "Yamadashi" literally means "coming out of the mountains." Before this portion of the festival, huge trees are cut down in a Shinto ceremony using axes and adzes specially manufactured for this single use. The logs are decorated in red and white regalia, the traditional colors of Shinto ceremonies, and ropes are attached. During Yamadashi, Teams of men drag the logs down the mountain towards the four shrines of Suwa Taisha. The course of the logs goes over rough terrain, and at certain points the logs must be skidded or dropped down steep slopes. Young men prove their bravery by riding the logs down the hill in a ceremony known as "Ki-otoshi." Participants astride a huge log slide down a hill during the Onbashira Festival on April 9, in Shimosuwa, Japan. The septennial festival has taken place for the past 1,200 years. The huge timbers are used as sacred pillars for the Suwa Grand Shrines of Kamisha and Shimosha, which are re-built in Suwa City. The lumbers' journey down the mountainside often results in injury and fatalities as participants try to ride the timbers as they slide down the mountain.


view Onbashira Festival as presented by: Sacramento Bee

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