Onbashira Festival

Onbashira Festival

#1 Introduction

No, this blog is not dead yet, yes it has been over 3 weeks, yes I’ve been busy, yes I have a huge backlog of things to write about, no I don’t have the time to do so in the foreseeable future, yes I like these kind of run on sentences, and finally, yes I will stop them for the remainder of the blog. Let’s begin, shall we…

Last Sunday was the Onbashira Festival in my host father’s hometown. He had been preparing and practicing for the event for a bit over a month prior and was very excited, and, truth be told, so was I. I had just gotten home from English Camp (school activity, blog about that soon…), and was very tired, but still, I managed to drag myself out of bed at 6 on a Sunday, somebody give me a prize!

#2 Quick History Lesson

Well, not just history, but here is a quick overview of what Onbashira Festival [Japanese: 御柱祭, translation: Honored Pillars Festival ] is:
The festival takes place every 6 years and consists of 2 parts. Yamadashi is the first and consists of the felling of 4 large fir trees in traditional shinto fashion, using specially made saws.


Satobiki is the second part and the one I got to witness. This part consists of the ceremonial pulling of the logs along the streets up until the shrine, where, after some speeches and dance performances, the pillars are erect on all 4 sides of the shrine. This may seem a bit strange, but here is a video I made to highlight the event:

I am sorry for the video being edited so terribly, and also messing up the date at the beginning [the festival was held on the 9th, not the 10th], I edited this at 2am so that I could render it overnight. My camera ran out of battery at the end so you sadly can’t see the logs being pulled up by all of the people, it was really cool. Also I filled 3 memory cards so I missed some really cool moments while switching them out and frantically looking for new cards.

#3 Fun Fun Fun

After managing to drag myself out of bed, my host mom and host brother took me to the town where the festival was being held, which was a quite long drive. My host dad was already there preparing for the festival. I got to meet my host grandmother for the first time, along with the whole distant family seemingly, but more about that later. We prepared some snacks and juices/sake for the groups pulling the logs passing by our stall, and had lots of fun chatting. Fun fun fun. My host dad was part of the first group so I took lots of pictures, and even got to join in pulling the log for a short period of time [ I could have probably done it for a longer time, but that log is heavy and I wanted to take lots of pictures].

I spent most of the time with my host brother, as my hostparents where very busy with manning the stall and dancing…, if you haven’t watched the video by now, I would recommend it, as I will refer back to it quite a bit. A big part of the festival were the dance performances by each group.

#4 Family Time

When I got back to my grandma’s house [which is over 120 years old and has those super cool sliding doors everywhere and it’s really really cool], I was greeted by what seemed like the entire distant family, there were way over 20 people sitting at that table. Furthermore, it seems like they didn’t know I was coming or even that my family was hosting an AFS exchange student, so there was a lot of loud whispering and excitement. Imagine that scene from Summer Wars [what, you are telling me you haven’t seen Mamoru Hosoda‘s masterpiece Summer Wars, well, open up a new tab and google a way to change that as soon as possible.] where the protagonist first meets the family and everybody is loud and cheering and catching up on old stories, and he awkwardly sits at the end of the table, and now change him to you, place yourself in the middle, give yourself huge difficulties understanding everybody’s Japanese and add way more delicious food… so so much food, fun fun fun. That pretty much summarizes that entire interaction, lots of slow speaking, lots of eating, lots of old stories, lots of fun, fun fun fun!

#5 Ramble ramble Wrap-up

Ok, I think that is all for today, I am really tired and am struggling to write coherent sentences, as you may be able to tell by all of the above. Onbashira Festival was a lot of fun and I am glad I got to be a part of it this year. I am really getting into the mood to write more, so expect a lot more posts in the future, or I’ll see you again in 3 weeks, who knows…

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