Soma Nomaoi – 1000 Year Tradition
Every year in the norther prefecture of Fukushima there’s the famous and magnificent Soma Nomaoi (相馬野馬追), a huge festival involving hundreds of riders from the area of what is known today as Minamisoma. Stretching back to around the year 1060 riders have gathered on a certain field every year to test their skill and compete in combat and the skills of the mounted warrior. The festival is a massive 3 day event with parades, racing, games and test to show of the skills of the local warriors. Back in the old days this used to be the training and recruiting grounds of Japan’s finest cavalry but these days it is a little more peaceful, at least physically. I saw several samurai who were as fierce on the parade as they would have been in battle, much to the consternation of an onlooker who dared step out of line – one man was crossing the road in the middle of a group of riders on his bicycle and was actually charged by the leader of the group, I believe it’s the first time I have seen a man desperately fleeing a mounted rider on a bicycle! I made sure to stick to my side of the road and got treated to a magnificent parade of a large variety of horses, from huge draft breeds to native Japanese ponies, with riders from 6 to 90 years of age. At noon the races started, and it is some of those riders that I managed to photograph and show you today. More photos to come from this most amazing festival, and more on how Minamisoma has survived evacuation, a tsunami and a nuclear meltdown. Stay tuned!