The Ancient Japanese Log-Riding Tradition Is Not For the Faint of Heart

Michele Debczak

The Onbashira Festival is a little more thrilling than your average get-together. Every six years in the Suwa region of Japan, participants honor a 1200-year tradition by sliding massive logs down steep hills and over rough terrain using nothing but thick ropes and sheer strength. The most recent festival took place this spring, and the thrilling highlights were captured by filmmakers in the above video spotted by Colossal.

As the footage shows, taking part in the festivities can result in serious bodily harm. The event is risky and sometimes even fatal to those who participate, but Onbashira (which translates to "the honored pillars") is a sacred and time-honored ritual.

After chopping down fir trees that weigh up to 10 tons in the first half of the event, the timber is then dragged through streets and countryside to Suwa's Grand Shrine. Once the destination is reached, the logs are raised to replace the sacred pillars that were put there years ago, symbolizing the shrine's renewal. There's plenty of time to start planning a visit to the next Onbashira festival; it won't be held again in the region until April and May of 2022.

[h/t Colossal]

All images courtesy of Vimeo.