Chris Gladden

Chris Gladden

Tuesday, 07 February 2023 05:51



The Resilience of Japan’s Most Dangerous Festival

By Chris Gladden. Assistant Researchers: Seira Gado, Airi Ito, and Chiharu Ohnishi.

The long-awaited moment has arrived. Hundreds of people in festival attire strain against two arm-thick ropes absorbed in the ancient task of hauling the Great Pillar of the Onbashira Festival. At last, they arrive at the infamous stretch of mountainside, which is treacherous and as steep as a ski jump. One heave at a time, they bring the pillar forward until it protrudes over the edge, ready for the plunge. Those chosen to accompany the falling log sit on top and brace themselves. In the valley below, thousands of spectators roar in anticipation. The traditional festival song swells all around, its message offering words of encouragement—and caution. Amid a final frenzy of chants and pulling, the pillar lurches ahead, drops, and begins its raging descent.


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