Soma Nomaoi Festival
Soma Nomaoi Festival
In many Japanese samurai movies and dramas, there are usually battle scenes with samurai warriors on horses fighting the battles and in the Fukushima Prefecture there is a festival called Soma Nomaoi where men wearing traditional samurai outfits do a heroic horse race. This festival has more than 1000 years of history as it has been continued since the Sengoku Period. It is a traditional festival that was originally a military exercise that was founded by Taira no Kohiro Masakado who was a part of the Soma Clan. It is said that he would make the men pursue and capture wild horses instead of using enemies for his military exercise.
After the exercise was done and the wild horses were captured the horses were used as offerings to Myoken Bodhisattva. At the end of July, this festival takes place for a total of three days. During the festival there are a bunch of other events that take place. However, the highlight of all of the events is the Shinki Sodatsusen and Kacchu Keiba. There are a lot of visitors and over 500 men in samurai uniforms on horseback holding long katana swords and ancestral flags that are walking around the city. This festival is designated as an important cultural property of Japan so it is very normal for a lot of people to take place in wearing a samurai uniform walking around the city.
On the first day of the festival there is a ceremony called Shutsujin that kicks of the beginning of the festival. This takes place at the three most important shrines in Fukushima which are the Nakamura Jinja Shrine, the Odaka Jinja and the Ohta Jinja Shrine. Before this ceremony takes place some toasts and prayers are offered at the three shrines. Then a shell horn is blown after the departure order is issued by the Surpreme Commander.
The other thing that takes place on the first day is Soutaishou-omukae which is the reception of the Supreme Commander. This takes place at the Kitago Headquarters and pretty much everyone waits here for the Supreme Commander to arrive. The Supreme Commander then order the samurai warriors to go to the Hibarigahara field where the event is to take place the next day.
Before the main horse race event that takes place the next day there is a pre race called Yoinori.
The second day is the main day of the entire festival. The race begins with a ceremony called Ogyouretsu. This is a march of all the samurai from the different regions on their horse and with their portable shrines heading towards the Hibarigahara Field.
Kacchu Keiba is the greatest horse race that takes place. This is an extremely unique horse race that you will not see anywhere else
Then the Shinki-soudatsusen takes place after the Kacchu Keiba ends. This is a battle in which hundreds of mounted samurais will compete for two sacred flags that are shot up in the air with canons. The samurais will fight against each other until they catch the flag.
On the third day of the festival. which is the last day of the festival, the Nomakade event takes place where the horses are captured barehanded. These horses are then presented as offerings to the Odaka Shrine.