holy flume ride.


The Onbashira festival is held only once every six years, (next one will be in April 2022), to metaphorically revitalize the Suwa shrines. The historic and lengthy event has been performed for over 1,200 years in Japan, and consists of two month-long components. The Yamadashi takes place in April, during which four very large tree trunks are felled by hand axes in the cemetery of a shinto shrine. They are wrapped and adorned in red and white, and then dragged by teams of men towards the Shinto shrines, who test their courage during the trial by performing “kiotoshi”: dangerously riding the logs downhill on rough inclines. The Satokibi, in May, sees these logs used as symbolic support structures. They are raised in the shrines by hand, while one man straddles the top, singing. When it is fully raised, and the man on top balanced many feet in the air, success is declared. A remarkable spectacle.

“to celebrate a festival means; to live out,

for some special occasion and in an uncommon manner,

the universal assent to the world as a whole.”

-joseph pieper


source credits: mental floss magazine

37 responses »

  1. Although extremely dangerous for the riders, this ritual is a sacred remembrance for those of the Shinto faith. And though it seems strange to us, you can imagine how some of our Judeo-Christian rituals may seem to them. Great post, Beth!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Traditions are what hold us together. No matter how simple or silly they may seem.
    We can’t just say, “Let’s make this certain activity a tradition.” It doesn’t work that way.
    Traditions just happen as we roll through life. A rolling log may gather no moss, but it gathers plenty of watchers.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A lot gets lost in translation. The trees are sacred and take up their honored place within the shrine, some trees inevitably must be used to make or restore these buildings, also it is a practical spacing issue that these trees are taken from cemeteries because the cemeteries are often over crowded with bodies quite literally stacked atop each other. Over a thousand years of generations living and dying on this island. They all have to go somewhere if the tradition is to bury and not to cremate. “Shisha” means “dead body” and “shi” also meant “4” so four is a superstition number, the number of death. You can also call 4, “nana’ instead of “shi”, but it is superstition similar to the number 13 in the U.S. For a long time you were considered tainted if you had the job of dealing with dead bodies, like a funeral director. This was a lower caste occupation and one that was given to Koreans who were forcibly brought over to work in these lower caste occupations. When I went to Peace Memorial park in Hiroshima the first time, as tragic as it all was. I didn’t cry until I saw the memorial stone erected to remember the Koreans that had died in the atomic blast. It wasn’t erected until 1963/64 to honor these people who had been forced to work in a country that wasn’t theirs hoping they might one day be able to return home to their families, only to die in a war that wasn’t theirs. People, regardless of their nationalities all have contrasting dualities of what is right and what is acceptable. I find human nature as fascinating as the natural world itself and Japan is one of my favorite places when it comes to blending and contrasting; nature and technology, social issues with environmental issues, old traditions with new traditions.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s