If riding a giant log down a steep mountain sounds like an ideal way to spend a quiet spring afternoon, the Onbashira Festival is for you. Held every 6 years in Nagano, Japan, the festival involves moving enormous logs over difficult terrain completely by hand with the help of thickly braided ropes and an occasional assist from gravity as the logs barrel down hills. The purpose is to symbolically renew a nearby shrine where each log is eventually placed to support the foundation of several shrine buildings. The event has reportedly continued uninterrupted for 1,200 years.
Onbashira is split into into two parts, Yamadashi and Satobiki, taking place in April and May respectively. Yamadashi involves cutting down and transporting the logs, each of which can weigh up to 10 tons. The logs are harnessed by ropes and pulled up to the tops of mountains by teams of men and then ridden down the other side. The event is exceedingly dangerous and comparable to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, where a brush with peril is seen as a form of honor. The second part, Satobiki, is a ceremonial raising event where participants again ride atop the logs and sing as each is hoisted into the air. Participants of both events are frequently injured and sometimes killed, but despite the obvious risks the tone of Onbashira is quite festive with lots of singing, music, and colorful costumes.
Filmmakers from Oh! Matsuri were at the festival this year and edited this beautiful glimpse into the obscure tradition.
When you think of cuddly stuffed animals made from textiles the top candidates would probably include teddy bears or bunny rabbits. Perhaps lower on the list would be squids, cicadas, and sea slugs, and yet Vancouver-based artist Hine Mizushima has chosen these unusual creatures as the the subjects of her wildly popular hand-creafted felt toys. Her one-of-a-kind plush critters have been displayed in galleries around the world and she’s turned many of them into prints which she sells on Etsy and Society6. You can see some of her latest work on Behance.
Designer and founder of Misawa Design Institute, Haruka Misawa (previously), has designed a series of minimal aquariums titled “Waterscapes” that include 3D printed objects inspired by undersea plant life. These works mimic coral and other aquatic flora that small fish use as hiding places, yet are all manufactured digitally. The objects are ones that would normal topple or crumble because of their own weight, yet because of their underwater location are able to exist as buoyant additions to the aesthetically pleasing fish homes.
Within the series Misawa has also designed bubbles of air within the aquariums that allow plants to thrive at the center of her creations. These meta environments appear like miniature fish bowls within larger aquariums, with plants floating at the top of the inner enclosures. These works were displayed recently in Taiwan in an exhibition titled “Waterscape” and you can see them in action in the video below. (via Design Milk)
Puppet designer Barnaby Dixon spent the last 1.5 years developing this amazing little hand puppet that includes mechanisms traditionally found on a marionette. When operated using two hands the figure seems almost lifelike and is capable of pointing, grasping small objects, and even talking. In another video Dixon experiments with the puppet’s various dance moves. (via Neatorama)
Here’s a clever but of instrumentation and video work. Musician Steve-san Onotera, aka the Samurai Guitarist, recorded himself playing the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun at an excruciatingly slow pace—almost 30 minutes to play the song once. He then sped the recording up 20 times and played it back, creating a sound that could easily be mistaken for some kind of modulated violin. Shooting during a sunrise was a nice touch. (via Kottke)
Milan-based tattoo artist Mirko Sata focuses on serpentine designs, snakes that twist around his clients’ arms, hands, and legs. The snakes he creates are typically done in just two shades— stark white and deep black. Layering and curling these creatures around each other, Mirko Sata produces a sort of yin and yang, placing opposite colors together with a force that seems to transcend traditional black and white tattoos.