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.
Share this story
Every three years in Japan an exciting event kicks off; one that invites visitors to enjoy the great outdoors while simultaneously visiting the largest art gallery in the world. For 50 days, visitors to the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale traverse 200 villages across roughly 190,000 acres of mountainous terrain located in Niigata, Japan. The entire land is dotted with site-specific artworks created by 160 artists from all over the world, making it the largest, most ambitious art festival in the world. And each piece is united by a single theme: humans are part of nature.
Originally initiated in 2000, the festival recently wrapped up its 6th iteration. And now, in an exhaustive look at the past 15 years, curator and director of the Triennale Fram Kitagawa has put together a book called Art Place Japan that includes all 800 artworks ever created for the festival, as well essays and traveling tips. But seeing it all has never been an objective. Organizers will admit that the sprawling nature of the festival is an “absolutely inefficient approach deliberately at odds with the rationalization and efficiency of modern society.” The intention is to interact with the beauty and richness of the land, which serves as a canvas for art.
Kitagawa’s book will be out November 14, 2015 and will be available through Amazon and other retailers.
Share this story
Held every year in New York, the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze is a 25-night-long Halloween event featuring some 5,000 hand-carved, illuminated pumpkins arranged into dinosaurs, sea monsters, zombies, and other spooky sculptural forms. Via Instagram:
Although only associated with Halloween as we know it today since the late 1800s, the tradition of gourd carving dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries in rural Ireland and England. People created jack o’lanterns for the old holidays of Samhain and All Souls’ Night when spirits were thought to be the most active. Grotesque faces carved into the objects were meant to frighten away any ghouls seeking to do harm.
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Craft
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.