If you show a human being a very large, very steep hill, said human being will eventually invent some dumb-ass ridiculous way of going down that hill. You could watch the following video and think, “wow, Japanese culture sure has some really bizarre stuff,” but really, the longstanding tradition of doing ludicrously dangerous things on steep slopes is a global phenomenon.
In Britain, people chase a wheel of cheese down a hill in Gloucestershire, people do weird things on skiis all over the world, and even DudePerfect, the most culture-bleached dude-bros in America, like to roll down hills inside of large pipes.
That being said, Japan’s Onbashira Festival takes the allure of doing dangerous stuff on steep inclines to another level. The Onbashira Festival is a shinto religious ceremony centered around giant tree-trunks brought down from the mountains to renew the pillars outside of the Nagano Prefecture’s Suwa Grand Shrine, one of the largest Shinto holy places in Japan.
During the first half of the festival, known as Yamadashi, the giant logs are cut down and then dragged to the shrines by teams of men, which all sounds very nice until you realize that “dragged by teams of men” means “absolute fucking mayhem involving enormous pieces of wood and many fragile bodies.”
Truth be told, the ceremony is exciting, fun, and strangely beautiful. It’s often compared to the running of the bulls in Pamplona, but without the animal cruelty. Young men often “ride the logs” to prove their bravery, but unlike the bulls, they’re willing participants.
And this year, we’ve got some highlights from the Yamadashi celebrations in gloriously-filmed HD and slow-mo, courtesy of filmmakers from Oh! Matsuri. The whole ceremony is equal parts thrilling and beautiful.
We highly recommend you crank this one up to 1080p and check it out: