Episode 25: Log Riding

Log riding is a small but exciting part of Onbashira Matsuri which is “The Sacred Pillars Festival”, which has been going on for 1,200 years!

Held every 7 years in Nagano, Japan, the festival involves moving enormous logsdown hills, across rivers and through towns. This is done in brightly dressed teams with nothing more than braided rope and gravity. The purpose is to renew a nearby shrine where the logs become pillars that support Shinto shrine buildings. A lot of tradition and honor involved.

The festival actually consists of two parts: Yamadashi and Satobiki.

Yamadashi is the chopping down and transporting of the logs. The logs are huge. They are 17 meters long and weigh as much as 12 tons! These logs are moved by hand the 10 kilometers, from the mountains to the shrines. The log riding comes in when the logs are hauled to the top of a large hill and ridden down the other side. Riding a huge log down a hill with nothing more than ropes to hold onto is extremely dangerous as one would imagine. The logs often win.

Satobiki is the raising of the logs at the actual shrine. This sounds like it might be safer, but there are still guys riding the logs here as well.

It’s an amazingly beautiful, sacred and amazing festival!

Onbashira was honored as part of the 1998 Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony in Nagano:

Ted Ladue