- The 1000 year-long tradition of“Soma-Nomaoi”
- Sat, 25th July: Yoi Matsuri
- The highlight is Sun, 26th July: Hon Matsuri, or the Main festival
- The final day, Mon, 27th July :“Nomagake”
- The conch horn plays an important role!
- The colorful flags are points to watch!
- Be prepared for the heat and watch the samurai!
The 1000 year-long tradition of“Soma-Nomaoi”
July and August are the two months in Japan when most festivals are held. Soma-Nomaoi is one of the largest summer events in the Tohoku region that indicates the coming of summer. It is common to see cavaliers walking streets in the parades all over Japan. Soma-Nomaoi is clearly different from others, because this festival originated during the actual preparation for war battle. The wild horses represent the enemy and the cavaliers in Kacchu armor battle them. The cavaliers here look so majestic and dashy. You might be able to witness the real spirit of the Samurai here. You can’t miss these 3 days!
Sat, 25th July: Yoi Matsuri
The ceremony for going to war is held at Soma Nakamura Shrine, Soma Ota Shrine, and Soma Kodaka Shrine. Out of the three, the one held in Soma Nakamura Shrine is very solemn, because it demonstrates the role of the commander-in-chief. After the ceremony, the commander-in chief orders everyone to take the field. The referee blows a conch horn, and the battle begins! Three teams are gathered on Hibarigahara field (Minami-Soma city Haramachi District). The ritual to purify the battle field, and an old horse race called, “Yoinori Keiba”are held. This picture shows them practicing for next day’s, Kacchuu Keiba. It looks amazing doesn’t it?
The highlight is Sun, 26th July: Hon Matsuri, or the Main festival
On the second day, during Hon Matsuri, the cavaliers start battling after the sound of horn, war drum, and fireworks. About 500 armored cavaliers take the 3-kilometer field. It feels as if you time traveled to the Sengoku period. There are also child cavaliers, who are just as glorious as the adults!
＜Kacchu Keiba and Shinki Sodatsusen＞
Once they get on the field, the highlights of the event, “Kacchuu Keiba”and “Shinki Sodatsusen”begin. The armored cavaliers hit the field kicking up dust, running up to the two Goshinki flags to grab one. The Goshinki represents the enemy’s head. The cavalry who gets the flag, proudly runs up the mountain. It just looks just like war, as the festival reaches its peak!
The final day, Mon, 27th July :“Nomagake”
There is a old Shinto ritual called “Nomagake” at the Soma Kodaka Shrine. Its purpose is to catch horses, corralled by bamboo fences. Several young people dressed in white costumes called “Okobito”try to catch a horse with their hands. The first horse that is caught is dedicated as the sacred horse, and the festival comes to an end.
The conch horn plays an important role!
Soma-Nomaoi begins with the blowing of the conch horn. It is said that, Nomaoi starts with the conch and ends with the conch. The sound of horn can be heard many times during the event. Every battle action and maneuvering horses are controlled by the horn’s sound. Listen to the horn and watch carefully!
The colorful flags are points to watch!
The cavalry carries have two types of flags, one is for showing which team he/she belongs to and the other is to show their title. Each team uses a different color to represent themselves and their titles are usually the same color. There are leaders, team leaders, strategists, and Otsukaiban (a person responsible for order and patrol in the battlefield). You’ll notice they have flags that have only one kanji character during the Ogyoretsu parade.
Be prepared for the heat and watch the samurai!
Hibarigahara is a grass field that has no cover, so you’ll sit on the grass and watch the battle. Be prepared for the potential sunburn and hot weather! The exciting and powerful battle will make you sweat as well!
Haramachi-ku, Minami Soma city, Fukushima Prefecture