Do you want to participate in one of the most dangerous festivals in the world? Do you want to see brave men ride a giant log speedily down a mountain? Then, take a look at the adrenaline-filled Onbashira festival!
Suwa Grand Shrine or Suwa Taisha is a 1200-year-old Shinto shrine located in Nagano prefecture. Suwa Taisha is the head shrine of the Suwa network consisting of more than 10,000 individual shrines. The Suwa shrine consists of four building complexes, the ‘Maemiya’ (old shrine), the ‘Honmiya’ (main shrine), the ‘Harumiya’ (spring shrine) and the ‘Akimiya’ (autumn shrine). Up until 1946 A.D., Suwa was designated as one of the ‘Kanpei-taisha’ which means it stood as the highest ranked nationally greatest shrines. The name Suwa came from the lake of the name name which is situated near the shrine.
Onbashira is conducted every 6 or 7 years according to the Japanese calendar. It is one of the most revered festivals in the Suwa region. More than 2 million visitors come and see the spectacle of men riding giant logs as they slide down the steep slopes of the mountain. The logs are usually 17 meters long weighing more than 12 tons! The fir trees are cut on the top of the mountain and are slid down the mountain to one of the four shrines of Suwa. This part of the festival is called ‘yamadashi’. These logs, after sliding down the mountain, are erected in the corners of the shrine buildings, a part of the festival called ‘satobiki’. It is an adrenaline-filled festival with dozens of men riding logs craftily at dangerous speeds down the mountain!
Dates for 2016: April 1 – June 15 (Yamadashi events are conducted in April and Satobiki events are conducted in May.)
Yamadashi dates: April 2 – 4 & April 8 – 10
Upper Shrine: May 3-5
Lower Shrine: May 14-16
Normally, tickets are needed for Yamadashi in advance and for the next festival, you can contact Suwa Tourism Association for confirmation of dates and prices of tickets. However, there is no need to buy tickets for Sabotiki. And while you’re there, you can also enjoy a lot of colorful parades that will take place during the festival near the shrine!