Heavenly Pillars Festival in Japan

If you like a taste for risk, this article will surely interest you. We are going to tell you about a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation for more than 1,200 years. A little clue: if the name is dreaming, the activity looks more like an extreme sport.

The feast of the heavenly pillars

The meeting takes place every six years near Lake Suwa, located in the center of Nagano Prefecture. This is where fans attracted by the celebration of “the heavenly pillars”, literal translation of the Japanese name “Onbashira Matsuri”, gather. The principle is simple: cutting and dragging tree trunks 16 meters long over several kilometers using only the force of your hands. The weight is as impressive as the principle of this tradition. With an average of 12 tonnes, the task is far from the easiest. It is called “Yamadoshi”. Note that these famous tree trunks replace “the heavenly pillars”, namely the pillars of the temples of four regional cities. This is part of the Satobiki procession but of course all this is only part of the festivities …

Push !

After bringing back their tree trunk, the participants must climb on it, before being pushed into a beautiful descent. The goal is simple: stay on the trunk. On paper, it looks like an Asian rodeo, more glorious since whoever manages to stay on the tree trunk to the bottom gets an honorary title, a reward far from trivial, right?

Here’s a little video to get you in the mood:

A high risk party

Unfortunately, and as we can imagine, this festival also involves each time its share of injuries, even deaths. The most dramatic is usually the risk of being run over by a trunk rushing down the slope. We reassure you, this happens only very rarely … That being said, this Japanese tradition appears to be the most dangerous of all, which does not prevent the party from being a real success.

Each edition, the feast of the heavenly pillars attracts nearly 500,000 people willing to risk their lives to indulge in this national tradition. As they say, fear does not avoid danger. The Japanese have for their part decided to enjoy the sensations brought by this kind of fearless activities.

Photo Credit: Jim George

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