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    • Spring
      • spring outdoor japan shinano discovery

        2022 Spring Tours and Travel

        Check out these green season tours and experiences across Japan!
        video

        Finding the Flow from Kansai to Kochi

        Shikoku’s many mountains, valleys and proximity to the ocean has made it a hidden gem for rafting, kayaking and canyoning enthusiasts willing to take a step or two further from the Golden Route of Kyoto and Osaka.

        Solace and Giant Salamanders in Akiota

        Just beyond Hiroshima City is a tranquil outdoor destination home to some of Japan's last remaining oosanshouo, the elusive giant salamander.

        2022 Art Events in Japan

        Two of Japan's biggest art events return this year: the Setouchi Triennale on the Seto Inland Sea Islands and Niigata's Echigo Tsumari Art Field.
        Kyoto Oni Trail Outdoor Japanvideo

        The Oni Trail: Hiking Coastal Kyoto

        The mystical oni is prevalent in Japanese children’s stories, usually as a way to scare kids straight. Adventure Travel Kyoto is shedding a new light on this folklore and developing a new hiking route in the countryside of Kyoto.
    • Summer
      • Washi Papermaking Kochi Shikoku Outdoor Japan

        Following the Paper Trail in Kochi

        Discover the traditional art of washi papermaking in Kochi with artist Rogier Uitenboogaart.
        Climbing Mt. Fuji Outdoor Japan

        Peaking in 2021: Climbing Mt. Fuji

        Thinking of climbing Mt. Fuji this summer? We talk to Mt. Fuji guides on best practices for scaling Japan's highest mountain.

        Japan Camping Guide

        Check out our picks all the way from Hokkaido to the Okinawa Islands and then plot your perfect Japan camping adventure.
        Japan's Digital Nomads Van Life in Japan

        Japan’s Digital Nomads

        Adventure couple Ruth Aisling and Bappa Shota explores Japan by van.
    • Autumn
      • Pow Bar Founder Megumi Scott

        Beyond the Brand: Pow Bar

        An interview with Megumi Scott, the founder of Niseko brand Pow Bar.
        Churamura Okinawa Sea Turtle Marine Conservation

        Churamura: Footprints in the Sand

        Churamura, an NPO in Okinawa, work to conserve marine life and protect endangered sea turtles in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
        Kawazu

        Fall in Love with Kawazu

        Enjoy waterfall hikes and hot springs, beautiful beaches and delicious seafood in Kawazu on the western coast of Izu Peninsula.
    • Winter
      • Spring Skiing in Japan 2022

        It may be spring in Japan but you can still ski in select ski resorts open all the way to Golden Week.
        Indy Pass Outdoor Japan Tohoku

        The Resistance

        The Indy Pass arrives in Japan to bring avid riders to local resorts that punch above their weight class and offer varied terrain.
        Shinano Town Outdoor Japan

        Go Deep into Shinano

        Discover Snow Country in Shinano Town in northern Nagano, popular for its deep powder but also its mountainous winter scenery.
        Evergreen Outdoor Center Japan

        Japan Snow Guide: Winter 2022 Events & No...

        Check out the latest news and winter events held at ski resorts all over Japan in 2022!
        video

        Hachimantai’s Powder History

        Discover powder and ski culture deep in Tohoku at Hachimantai.
    • Near Tokyo
    • Near Kyoto
      • video

        Finding the Flow from Kansai to Kochi

        Shikoku’s many mountains, valleys and proximity to the ocean has made it a hidden gem for rafting, kayaking and canyoning enthusiasts willing to take a step or two further from the Golden Route of Kyoto and Osaka.
        Kyoto Oni Trail Outdoor Japanvideo

        The Oni Trail: Hiking Coastal Kyoto

        The mystical oni is prevalent in Japanese children’s stories, usually as a way to scare kids straight. Adventure Travel Kyoto is shedding a new light on this folklore and developing a new hiking route in the countryside of Kyoto.
    • All Regions
    • Article Map
    • Ocean and Beach
      • Solace and Giant Salamanders in Akiota

        Just beyond Hiroshima City is a tranquil outdoor destination home to some of Japan's last remaining oosanshouo, the elusive giant salamander.
        Churamura Okinawa Sea Turtle Marine Conservation

        Churamura: Footprints in the Sand

        Churamura, an NPO in Okinawa, work to conserve marine life and protect endangered sea turtles in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
        Kawazu

        Fall in Love with Kawazu

        Enjoy waterfall hikes and hot springs, beautiful beaches and delicious seafood in Kawazu on the western coast of Izu Peninsula.
        Kaiyu Kochi Shikoku Outdoor Japan

        Snorkeling, Surfing and Sustainability in Koch...

        Enjoy the clear waters of Kochi by snorkeling and surfing while staying at a refurbished hotel committed to sustainability.
    • River and Lake
      • video

        Finding the Flow from Kan...

        Shikoku’s many mountains, valleys and proximity to the ocean has made it a hidden gem for rafting, kayaking and canyoning enthusiasts willing to take a step or two further from the Golden Route of Kyoto and Osaka.

        Solace and Giant Salamand...

        Just beyond Hiroshima City is a tranquil outdoor destination home to some of Japan's last remaining oosanshouo, the elusive giant salamander.
        sawa nobori wakasa fukuivideo

        Shower Climbing High Abov...

        Learn about the uniquely Japanese activity of sawanobori, navigating up rivers and waterfalls, in the Wakasa region of Fukui Prefecture.
        Iriomote Yamaneko Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote’s Endanger...

        Iriomote Island, one of Japan's last untouched wild places, is home to the endangered yamaneko wildcat.
        Iriomote Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote Activity Guide

        A guide to Iriomote's outdoors, hiking, diving, cultural experiences and accommodation.
    • Mountain and Land
    • Sky
    • Snow and Ice
      • Spring Skiing in Japan 2022

        It may be spring in Japan but you can still ski in select ski resorts open all the way to Golden Week.
        Indy Pass Outdoor Japan Tohoku

        The Resistance

        The Indy Pass arrives in Japan to bring avid riders to local resorts that punch above their weight class and offer varied terrain.
        Shinano Town Outdoor Japan

        Go Deep into Shinano

        Discover Snow Country in Shinano Town in northern Nagano, popular for its deep powder but also its mountainous winter scenery.
        Evergreen Outdoor Center Japan

        Japan Snow Guide: Winter 2022 Events & No...

        Check out the latest news and winter events held at ski resorts all over Japan in 2022!
        video

        Hachimantai’s Powder History

        Discover powder and ski culture deep in Tohoku at Hachimantai.
    • Travel
      • sawa nobori wakasa fukuivideo

        Shower Climbing High Above Wakasa Bay

        Learn about the uniquely Japanese activity of sawanobori, navigating up rivers and waterfalls, in the Wakasa region of Fukui Prefecture.
        Kyoto Oni Trail Outdoor Japanvideo

        The Oni Trail: Hiking Coastal Kyoto

        The mystical oni is prevalent in Japanese children’s stories, usually as a way to scare kids straight. Adventure Travel Kyoto is shedding a new light on this folklore and developing a new hiking route in the countryside of Kyoto.

        Market Watch: Oiso’s Shishimai Marche

        Check out this farmers' market in the beachside town of Oiso.
        Shinano Town Outdoor Japan

        Go Deep into Shinano

        Discover Snow Country in Shinano Town in northern Nagano, popular for its deep powder but also its mountainous winter scenery.
        Protect our Winter POW Japan

        Protecting Japan’s Pow

        Professional snowboarder and environmentalist Goro Komatsu fights climate change with Protect our Winters Japan.
    • Food and Drinks
      • sawa nobori wakasa fukuivideo

        Shower Climbing High Above Wakasa Bay

        Learn about the uniquely Japanese activity of sawanobori, navigating up rivers and waterfalls, in the Wakasa region of Fukui Prefecture.
        Kyoto Oni Trail Outdoor Japanvideo

        The Oni Trail: Hiking Coastal Kyoto

        The mystical oni is prevalent in Japanese children’s stories, usually as a way to scare kids straight. Adventure Travel Kyoto is shedding a new light on this folklore and developing a new hiking route in the countryside of Kyoto.

        Market Watch: Oiso’s Shishimai Marche

        Check out this farmers' market in the beachside town of Oiso.
        Shinano Town Outdoor Japan

        Go Deep into Shinano

        Discover Snow Country in Shinano Town in northern Nagano, popular for its deep powder but also its mountainous winter scenery.
        Protect our Winter POW Japan

        Protecting Japan’s Pow

        Professional snowboarder and environmentalist Goro Komatsu fights climate change with Protect our Winters Japan.
    • Races and Events
      • spring outdoor japan shinano discovery

        2022 Spring Tours and Travel

        Check out these green season tours and experiences across Japan!

        2022 Art Events in Japan

        Two of Japan's biggest art events return this year: the Setouchi Triennale on the Seto Inland Sea Islands and Niigata's Echigo Tsumari Art Field.

        2022 Spring Races & Festivals

        The start of the green season is a great time to start trail running, cycling and hiking. Check out these races, outdoor events and traditional festivals held this spring.
        Evergreen Outdoor Center Japan

        Japan Snow Guide: Winter 2022 Events & No...

        Check out the latest news and winter events held at ski resorts all over Japan in 2022!

Onbashira Matsuri

Onbashira Matsuri Japan Nagano Festival

The Year of the Tiger roars back in 2022 and so does Onbashira Matsuri. This ancient festival, dating back more than 1,200 years, once again takes place in the communities around Lake Suwa in southern Nagano.

The Onbashira Matsuri is not only one of Japan’s oldest festivals, it is also one of the most dangerous. The matsuri is actually an elaborate Shinto ritual that plays out in the mountains, forests and rivers around Lake Suwa to replace four sacred pillars at each of the four shrines that comprise the Suwa Taisha (Suwa Grand Shrine). It all unfolds over two months in spring, once every six years on the Year of the Tiger and the Year of the Monkey. 

Onbashira Matsuri Japan Nagano Festival

Suwa Taisha is one of Japan’s oldest shrines and the birthplace—and headquarters—of the 10,000 Suwa shrines dotted around Japan. Villagers prepare for Onbashira by selecting sixteen enormous fir trees to become the sacred pillars (one in each corner of each shrine). Only those that are more than 150 years old and 17 meters tall are worthy of the honor. 

Onbashira Matsuri Japan Nagano Festival

Onbashira‘s reputation as one of Japan’s most dangerous festivals is due to the number of locals that have died during the yamadashi (coming out of the mountains) ritual, where trees weighing as much as twelve tons are dragged down mountains, then ridden down steep 27-degree slopes in a show of courage. They are then carried across the frigid Miyagawa River where the logs are ceremoniously washed by the snow-fed waters that can drop to single digits. While the satobiki (pillar raising) ritual, held a month later, is less adrenaline-fueled, it is no less spectacular—or dangerous. Participants have also died while falling from atop the logs while they are paraded through the town or erected at the shrines. 

Onbashira Matsuri Japan Nagano Festival

There is no shortage of pageantry as beautiful horses prance, hanagasa dances are performed, the unforgettable high pitched Onbashira songs sung throughout, and countless traditions passed down from generation to generation take place while townspeople enjoy the street party they’ve meticulously prepared for leading up to the festivities.

As the festivities take place over many weeks, there is plenty of time for visitors to explore the surrounding area. It is a great cycling region highlighted by the 70-kilometer Venus Line that goes from Shimosuwa up to Kirigamine, the Kurumayama Plateau, Lake Shirakaba and then on to the tourist area of Tateshina before dropping down into Chino and looping back to Lake Suwa. The area is famous for miso and sake, so try to include a stop at Masumi, a well-known sake brewer on the northeast side of the lake between Kamisuwa and Shimosuwa. If you are lucky, long-term resident and international sales director, Keith Norum, will be in to share his extensive knowledge of their sake and the brewing process.

Lake Suwa is an onsen destination blessed with many hot springs and hot spring inns. There are footpaths and public baths including the Katakurakan’s famous “Sennin-buro” (thousand person hot spring), which is Japan’s oldest recreational onsen and designated as an important cultural property. 

By car it takes about two hours and 30 minutes from Tokyo (Shinjuku) to the Suwa I.C. or two hours and 40 minutes from Nagoya to the Suwa I.C. on the Chuo Expressway. By train, it’s two hours and 35 minutes on the Super Azusa from Shinjuku Station to Kami-Suwa Staton (there are no shinkansen) or two hours and 40 minutes on the Shinano Limited Express from Nagoya. Shinshu Matsumoto Airport also has flights from Sapporo (90 minutes) or Fukuoka (two hours and 50 minutes). Matsumoto is about 30 minutes from Lake Suwa by car or train. 

Onbashira Matsuri Japan Nagano Festival

Learn more about Onbashira Festival on their website here.

When: Yamadashi: Apr. 2-4, 8-10; Satobiki:  May 3-5, 14-16 
Where: Suwa, Shimosuwa and Chino, Nagano

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