All About Japan

Onbashira: Japan’s Most Dangerous Festival

Shrines Festivals Shoryudo Nagano

“What a grand tree,” says an elderly woman who has come to pay her respects to the tree. “Humans can only hope to be this grand.”

Measuring 20 meters (65 ft) and clocking in at 10 tons, the fir tree is transported to the top of a hill. Eight days later, hundreds of men will attempt to ride the tree, and the deity that lives inside it, as it crashes down the steep hill towards the bottom. The festival reaches its finale when the tree is then lifted into the air—assuming its original position—and men attempt to climb to the top. In May of 2016, one man died. During the previous festival two men died. In fact, injury, and sometimes death, is a common element in this festival, which only takes place in the town of Suwa in Nagano Prefecture.

Learn more about the history of this 1,200-year-old spring festival, with more pictures and videos of the event, by heading to Spoon & Tamago below.

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