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Soma Nomaoi July 22 – 25, 2017

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The Soma Nomaoi is a one thousand year old traditional festival which introduces the code of the samurai of the Warring States Period to the present day. Hibarigahara, Ota Shrine and Odaka Shrine (both located in Minami-Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture) and Nakamura Shrine (Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture)

The festival is held involving the residents of what used to be the administrative territory of Soma in the Edo Period (1603-1869), which now consists of 2 cities, 6 towns and a village. Soma-Nomaoi has its origins in a military exercise: a general, the ancestor of the later holders of the Soma domain, released wild horses on to the plain for his cavalry to pursue and capture. The horses they caught were presented as offerings to a Shinto deity.

The festival recreates a battle scene from more than 1,000 years ago. It is annually held for 4 days from July 22 to 25 in Haramachi City, Fukushima Prefecture, in the eastern part of Japan. In this historical event, 600 mounted samurai in traditional Japanese armor, with long swords at their side and ancestral flagstaffs streaming from their backs, ride across open fields. Soma-Nomaoi has been designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.

One reason Nomaoi really stands out is because you don’t tend to see a lot of horses in Japan (unless you go to the races) – there just isn’t the space for them. The Soma Clan is able to muster so many horses only because the area is a major centre for horse-breeding, and on the days of the festival you can see small groups of horses setting out from all over town. But while the samurai may be true to ancient traditions, the horses are not – the small Japanese breeds of feudal times are now rare. The horses you will see at Nomaoi are Arabians or other breeds from overseas.

Minami-Soma is one of the towns that was worst hit by the Tsunami in March 2011, with large parts of the town swamped and many people killed. If that wasn’t bad enough, Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is only 25 kilometres away. Parts of Minami-Soma remain subject to evacuation orders, but despite these obstacles, the Nomaoi went ahead even in 2011, albeit on a reduced scale. It has now recovered almost to its size from before the disaster, and serves as an important focus for a community that has suffered so much in recent years.

If you want to see the Shinto ceremonies that precede the main festival, you’ll have to head to one of the three shrines where they take place. Soma Nakamura Jinja is 22km north of the hippodrome and 2km from Soma Station. Soma Ohta Jinja is 2 km south of the hippodrome, and 2½km from Iwaki Ota Station. Finally, Soma Odaka Jinja (where the wild horse chase itself takes place) is 8½km south of the hippodrome and 1km from Odaka Station. All these stations are on the JR Joban Line.

Entrance fee:
1,000 yen for no reserved seats for seeing “Armor horse racing” and “God flag competition” (800 yen for seats sold in advance) 1,200 yen for reserved seats for seeing “Armor horse racing” and “God flag competition” 3,000 yen for reserved seats for seeing “Equestrian warriors’ marching”, “Armor horse racing”, and “God flag competition”

 

Details

The Soma Nomaoi
When July 22 - 25, 2017
WhereMinamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture(map)
DescriptionPlace :

Access : Ten minutes by taxi from Haranomachi Station on the JR Jyoban Line Fifteen minutes by *bus from Haranomachi Station on the JR Jyoban Line
(* This shuttle bus is organized by the executive committee.)

Notes : Parking, approximately 3,000 cars parked
Tel
The Executive Committee of Soma Nomaoi
Fax
The Executive Committee of Soma Nomaoi
+81-224-22-3100
E-mail
URL
The Executive Committee of Soma Nomaoi
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