All posts tagged: onbashira

Onbashira – the bold and the brave

Riding a tree trunk as it slides down the side of a mountain is as safe as it sounds. There are injuries, and numerous participants have died. The Onbashira festival, however, has taken place for over 12 centuries. Every 6 years, tradition takes priority over health and safety, and with a heady mixture of religious fervor and adrenaline, the men go for the ride of their lives. The kiotoshi (tree falling)  part of the Shimosha Onbashira takes place over three days. Friday 8th of April 2016, was the first day, with three different teams riding in the afternoon. Having shot the first team with a 300mm telephoto lens, I switched to the 90mm so that I could put the action in a little more context. When the tree trunks finally comes to a stop, all the members of the team scramble together to celebrate and then start to drag the trunk onwards. The men with white helmets and riot shields at the base of the hill are to stop dislodged stones from hitting the crowds. As …

Onbashira – Suwa Taisha Kamisha

Onbashira is a traditional log riding festival held in held in Suwa Town, Nagano Prefecture every six years. Tree trunks are dragged from the mountains to the Suwa Taisha Shrine to be raised as sacred pillars. Kiotoshi “tree falling” is where men risk their lives riding the tree trunks down a steep slope. This takes place in two locations, first there is  “Kamisha” near Chino, then a few days later there is “Shimosha” near Shimosuwa. On the three days of the Suwa Taisha Kamisha the “tree falling” is followed by  kawagoshi “river crossing.” A small rope is towed across the river (in one case by an ugly duckling with swans) which connects to the larger ropes that drag the tree trunk. Dignitaries are carried across the river. Then the brass band wades across! The tree trunk, bedecked with a couple of dozen men, is dragged from the riverbank. Rescue services stand by to try and prevent any of the participants from drowning. An amazing spectacle to witness.