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The local committees in Suwa have announced that the second part of the Onbashira Festival (Satobiki—hauling the pillars to town and standing them at the shrines) will take place as scheduled from May 3 to 5 at the Kamisha shrines and from May 14 to 16 at the Shimosha shrines. Locals will be hauling the pillars by hand, as they have during the festival for at least the last 1,200 years. Guidelines are in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the festivities; with widespread vaccination, the COVID-19 situation in the region has greatly improved. Tourists are being asked to avoid attending, but as Satobiki is a public outdoor event, how that will work in practice is unclear.
Public participation in the Yamadashi portion of Onbashira 2022 (bringing the pillars down the mountain) on April 2 – 4 and April 8 – 10 was cancelled due to Japan’s Covid-19 situation. This included kiotoshi, the famous log riding event. For the first time ever, the shrines hired trucks and paid crews to transport the pillars to their temporary resting spots. Some neighborhoods still held ceremonies or parades for their pillars en route.
Due to COVID-19, Japan remains closed to international travel. From the U.S. Embassy in Japan:
“Travel for tourism and most other short-term purposes is still not permitted, and there is no indication that this will change in the short term. Visa-free travel is suspended. Travelers who believe they qualify for an exception to Japan’s strict entry controls should contact their nearest Japanese Embassy or consulate for information.”
Check back for the latest news and information on Onbashira 2022. Updates will be available here and on our Onbashira Facebook page as new information becomes available.
*Featured image: Emi Yamazaki, 2016
* Site and written content by Chris W. Gladden