- Title: JAPAN: Logriders risk lives for thrill in a ritual festival in Suwa
- Date: 9th April 2010
- Summary: PEOPLE HAILING LOGRIDER SEATED ON LOG ON TOP OF HILL MORE OF PEOPLE HAILING THOUSANDS OF SPECTATORS POLICE OFFICERS LOOKING AT LOGRIDING AMBULANCE ON STAND-BY NEAR THE HILL (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) MINORU GAWASUMI, 50-YEAR-OLD EMERGENCY MEDICAL WORKER, SAYING: "Their blood is boiling because they've been waiting for this moment for 7 years, but I hope there are no injuries today." PARTICIPANTS PULLING ROPE CONNECTED TO THE LOG LOGRIDER SEATED ON SURGING LOG PULLED BY PEOPLE LOG SLIDING DOWN THE HILL AND PEOPLE RUNNING BEHIND (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) YUMIKO HAYASHI, 43-YEAR-OLD HOUSEWIFE, SAYING: "I feel this festival is divine because, looking at what they do, I think more people should have been injured if it had been an ordinary festival. But we have no one injured today because the god is looking down on us." LOGRIDER CHEERING WITH BOTH ARMS STRETCHING INTO THE AIR PEOPLE SURROUNDING LOGRIDER AND HAILING LOGRIDER RESPONDING TO HAILING PEOPLE (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) TSUYOSHI MURATA, 45-YEAR-OLD PAINT SHOP OWNER, SAYING: "I don't know why I'm doing this, but it feels damn good." PEOPLE PULLING LOG OUT OF THE HILL LOG BEING CARRIED BY PEOPLE FEET OF LOGRIDER STANDING ON LOG LOG SLIDING DOWN SLOPE FURROW MADE BY THE LOG ON THE GROUND FESTIVAL PARTICIPANT FIST-FIGHTING WITH SPECTATORS ANOTHER LOG SLIDING DOWN HILL
- Embargoed: 24th April 2010 13:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky
- Reuters ID: LVA8X34X8NTDC5TQ9YZAW3E3F8B0
- Story Text: Logriders storm down a hill on a tree trunk, risking their lives in exchange of thrill during a ritual festival in Japan.
About 45,000 local people and several times more spectators from across Japan flocked to Suwa City, 200-kilometer (120 miles) north of Tokyo, to join the "Onbashira Matsuri" (pronounce "on-bah-shee-ra") or "holly pillar festival" on Friday (April 9).
The 100-meter-long (33 feet), up to 45-degree-slant hill on the side of a small agricultural village has turned into one of the hottest tourism attractions once every six or seven years.
The logride involves five to six men tumbling over a mountain top on a 20-meter-long (67 feet), ten-ton (22,000 pounds) fir log that comes crashing down a steep slope with no guarantees if the rider will still be on he log at the end of the ride.
But for spectators, it's a spectacle.
"It's so cool," said 5-year-old Kuon Ukai after he watched his father Akira participate.
It is common for log-riders to fall and sometimes even be crushed to death during the race -- injuries are common and almost inevitable.
"Their blood is boiling because they've been waiting for this moment for 7 years, but I hope there are no injuries today," said Minoru Gawasumi, a medic who was on standby for any emergencies.
A spectator in his thirties was taken to hospital with a broken leg even before the run started - miraculously, he was the only one injured.
Most outsiders feel one has to be a little crazy to participate in this unusual sport.
But locals believe the festival is a sacred ritual.
"I feel this festival is divine because, looking at what they do, I think more people should have been injured if it had been an ordinary festival. But we have no one seriously injured today because the god is looking down on us," said Yumiko Hayashi, a 43-year-old and a Suwa born.
Organizers said the festival goes back to over 1,200 years, and is deeply rooted in Japan's indigenous religion Shinto.
Its beginnings, shrouded in mystery, are believed to be a ritualized rebuilding of the city's main shrine. Shinto shrines are regularly torn down and rebuilt to symbolize rebirth and renewal.
The person who manages to stay on top of the log for the entire trip down the hill is called "Hana-nori," or splendid rider, and hailed by other participants.
Locals say the honour and talismanic protection offered by being Hana-nori is enough to last a life time.
The day's Hana-nori, Tsuyoshi Murata, a 45-year-old paint shop owner, however, seemed to only enjoy the thrills and adrenaline.
"I don't know why I'm doing this, but it feel damn good," Murata told Reuters.
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