Destination Spotlight

Watching Exhilarating Samurais On Horseback – Soma Nomaoi

Watching Exhilarating Samurais On Horseback – Soma Nomaoi

The Soma Nomaoi is a 3-day festival takes place during the last weekend of July every year, and is centered around 3 main shrines in the cities of Minamisoma and Soma.

It is thought that the festival has its roots in a local tradition from the 10th century, when horses were chased and tamed as part of military exercises secretly held by the city’s samurai warriors. How amazing is it to go to a festival which has been happening in one form or another for 1000 years?!

Those who take part in the festival are people from samurai or noble families, many of whom have received armour passed down from their ancestors.

On the first day, A ceremonial opening act called a ‘Departure Ceremony’ is held at the 3 main shrines involved in the festivals. There are also pre-event horse races, to get everyone excited for the excitement to come during the next day.

There are quite a lot of websites with the details of the festival, but I’ll briefly about the festival’s schedule during this post! I actually headed to Minamisoma on the second day of the festival, and have written about the day’s events below.

PROCESSIONS (GYORETSU)

Those who will take part in the day’s events take part in a stunning 3 km procession through Haranomachi, to the town’s race course – bringing portable shrines and all!

Going to see the gyoretsu means you’ll get a chance to see cute kids wearing samurai armour – not to be missed!

KACCHU KEIBA HORSE RACING

10 horse races are held at midday. All of the riders wear 'kacchu' – a type of samurai armour, which I got to try on during a previous visit to Minamisoma!

Having had experience wearing real kacchu, I know how hot and heavy the armour is. I could only wear it for about 10 minutes before getting a bit tired, so I don’t know how everyone managed to wear them for the whole day, despite the hot midday sun!

The races were really exciting to watch. As the riders zoomed past, mud was thrown up in the air, covering a lot of them – and some members of the crowd!

A number of people tumbled off their horses, many of the races were incredibly close, so I couldn’t take my eyes off of the race course.

SHINKI SODATSUSEN

This is the part of the day that I could not pronounce no matter how many times I tried to say it!

Hundreds of riders gather in the central field. Flags are shot into the sky using fireworks, and the riders must chase after them, and catch them before the others.

There were 2 things that surprised me about this event

  1. There were boys and girls who looked like they must be middle school kids taking part

  2. It reminded me so much of Quidditch – with flags as the Snitch, and horses instead of brooms!

I spent a lot of the second festival day trying – and failing – to take good photographs, so I am jealous of the attendees who sat in the audience seats and got to watch the whole thing. I enjoyed the day a surprising amount for someone with a phobia of horses, and I would definitely like to go again! We left before evening, but if we had stayed, we would have seen a fireworks display, held in Odaka town for the first time in 7 years.

The third day also includes important traditional events, such as Nomagake – where two brown and one white ‘wild’ horses are caught barehanded, and then taken to Odaka Shrine to be blessed. This is the part of the festival which gives it its name – which translate as 'Soma’s Wild Horse Chase'.

It’s so exciting that Odaka has once again become able to hold an event which has been practised and celebrated among local people for a millennium. It certainly is a clear demonstration of Odaka’s revitalization progress.

I’m hoping to interview somebody who participated in the festival at some point – I’m looking forward to finding out what they think about this tradition!


TIPS FOR VISITING THE FESTIVAL:

  1. Bring water! And sun cream!
  2. Bring a camera with a long zoom!
  3. If you come on the second day and want a good seat for the horse race, you have to leave the street processions early. The road to the race course is just a straight line from where the processions are, so it is easy to find!

ACCESS:

  • Shuttle buses run from JR Haranomachi Station during festival time.
  • There are also buses that leave Sendai Station.

Latest posts

  1. Useful Information

    Persimmon Paradise in Date City!

    Here you can drive though fields of endless persimmons...  At first you might think that someone has hung thousands of lanterns, such a romantic sight might be expected in a town named Date City... but these are actually persimmons! Acres and acres of persimmon trees grow around the Date City area. On top of that nearly every home in the area has hundreds, even thousands, of persimmons hanging from their rafters or in open air pavilions. Dried persimmons are, apparently, a specialty in Date City. These fruits are turned into delicious semi-dried fruits that you’ve got to try! They are so good. The outer skin firms up like fruit leather and the insides sweeten and become gelatinous in texture. If you have ever tried a "gusher," these are like giant gushers that are naturally sweet.  The practice of hanging persimmons at home is still practiced by some Japanese people, however it can be a bit difficult and time consuming. Fortunately for everyday people (who lack both time and skill) the farmers of Date City make and sell plenty of these delicious treats!  Those who hang persimmons for commercial use use a special method that they learned from California raisin makers, this is how they maintain their brilliant color! It was cool to find a connection to my home country in such a cute rural town.

    Persimmon Paradise in Date City!
  2. Useful Information

    Harvest Seasonal Fruit

    Fukushima Prefecture is one of the leading fruit production regions in Japan, to the extent that Fukushima City is often called the 'Fruit Kingdom,' and there is a road within the city limits with the nickname 'Fruit Line.' As hinted at by the name, the road is surrounded by fruit orchards on both sides for a distance of over 14 kilometers. If one looks closely, they will see different fruits growing during the year, with cherries in the springtime (early June to early July), peaches in the summer months (from mid-July to early September), pears (late August through early October) and grapes (early September through early October) in autumn, and finally apples in early winter (early October to early December). During each season, the nearby fruit orchards bustle with activity as families and tourists come to buy the fresh, high quality fruit. Fruit-Picking Experience One pleasant way of enjoying the Fruit Line is to pick some fruit yourself, a popular pastime in Japan known as fruits-kari, meaning 'fruit-picking.' Fruit-picking is a luxury in Japan, available only in fruit-producing regions. In Japan, it's typical to be able to pick as much fruit as you'd like within a set time and enjoy it fresh on the spot. However, unlike some orchards abroad, many Japanese orchards don't allow fruit picked as part of the fruits-kari experience to be taken out of the orchard. Fruit can be bought separately of course. You need not bring or prepare anything to participate. You need but set out on an adventure that promises satisfaction with the deliciousness of the fresh fruit and the instinctive enjoyment of harvesting it. Here we will describe how to go about fruit hunting using the example of an apple orchard. When you arrive at the orchard, sign up for the fruit-picking experience. After signing up, you will be provided with any necessary tools, such as instruments for cutting fruit from the branch or buckets. The staff will then give a brief introduction in Japanese on how to pick the fruit and how to tell the difference between ripe and unripe fruit, but the topic is one that is easy to grasp even just by watching their gestures as they explain, so Japanese language skills are not a requirement. Then, after entering the orchard itself, there will be nothing but apples wherever you look. Your job is now to find the ones that look the tastiest from among all the others. Fukushima’s apples are known for being quite juicy and for a taste with a good balance of sweetness and tartness, the result of Fukushima’s uniquely wide temperature variation in the local climate. Take a bite of the apple and your mouth will be filled with the fresh juice accompanied by the appealing crisp sound. And if you really want to experience the taste, we recommend eating the apple as is without removing the peel first. You can also experience a variety of textures and sweetness levels depending on the variety of apple. Fukushima City's Orchards Many types of fruit are grown within the Fukushima City limits, and the volume of pears in particular is the second highest for Japan. Thus, the local farmers have plenty of opportunity to constantly improve their skills. Whereas the norm is to wrap individual fruits in little bags in Japan when they are still on the tree to protect them against pests, the orchards of Fukushima City more commonly grow fruits without using these bags, ensuring that each fruit receives more direct sunlight giving them a higher natural sugar content and richer taste. There is also a recent and growing trend to design new confections that make use of these high quality fruits. These delicious desserts are possible specifically because the orchard farmers know what they’re doing when it comes to flavorful fruit. So if you have the time, we recommend combining your fruit-picking with a culinary tour of the available confections as well. The production of jams and juices using the fruits is also quite popular at Fukushima orchards, and those products make great gifts to take home with you. The Fruit Line provides numerous ways to enjoy yourself depending on the season. When visiting, we recommend coming by car. That way you can enjoy the surrounding scenery as you drive, and the ability to stop by at any local farmer’s markets you may come across will further increase the charm of your trip. Enjoy this luxurious experience and the tastes of the season to the fullest at your own pace, surrounded by the bounty of nature. Read here for more.

    Harvest Seasonal Fruit
  3. Access

    JR Tadami Line

    Station list and timetable for the JR Tadami Line (Updated April 2020) ABOUT SERVICE DISRUPTIONS Replacement bus service runs between Aizu-Kawaguchi Station and Tadami Station. TIMETABLE (FROM AIZU-WAKAMATSU TO KOIDE, VIA TADAMI) Station name Aizu-Wakamatsu 6:03 7:41 13:09 16:56 17:40 19:40 21:47 Nanuka-machi 6:06 7:44 13:12 16:59 17:43 19:43 21:50 Aizu Hongo 6:16 7:55 13:23 17:13 17:53 19:59 22:00 Aizu Bange 6:47 8:25 13:48 17:36 18:14* 20:24 22:22 Aizu Yanaizu 7:04 8:42 14:05 17:53 20:41 22:39 Aizu Hibara 7:21 8:59 14:21 18:10 20:57 22:55 Aizu Nishikata 7:26 9:04 14:25 18:14 21:01 22:59 Aizu Miyashita 7:38 9:12 14:29 18:18 21:05 23:03 Hayato 7:47 9:21 14:38 18:27 21:15 23:12 Aizu Kawaguchi 8:06 9:40 14:58 18:46 21:34 23:31 *This train stops at Aizu Bange Station. Change to replacement bus service between Aizu Kawaguchi Station and Tadami Station.   Station name Aizu Kawaguchi 8:15 10:25 14:10 15:35 17:25 19:00 Tadami 9:05 11:15 15:00 16:25 18:15 19:50 Change to replacement bus service between Aizu Kawaguchi Station and Tadami Station.   Station name Tadami 9:30 15:40 18:35 Koide 10:43 16:53 19:48   TIMETABLE (FROM KOIDE TO AIZU-WAKAMATSU STATION, VIA TADAMI) Station name Koide 7:58 13:11 17:10 Tadami 9:15 14:28 18:27 Change to replacement bus service between Aizu Kawaguchi Station and Tadami Station.   Station name Tadami 7:10 9:25 11:25 14:32 16:00 17:45 18:40 Aizu Kawaguchi 8:00 10:15 12:15 15:22 16:50 18:35 19:30 Change to replacement bus service between Aizu Kawaguchi Station and Tadami Station.   Station name Aizu Kawaguchi 5:32 7:06 8:41 12:31 15:29 19:09 Hayato 5:51 7:26 9:00 12:50 15:49 19:28 Aizu Miyashita 6:01 7:36 9:15 13:00 15:59 19:38 Aizu Nishikata 6:04 7:39 9:18 13:03 16:02 19:41 Aizu Hibara 6:08 7:43 9:22 13:07 16:06 19:45 Aizu Yanaizu 6:24 7:59 9:38 13:23 16:22 20:01 Aizu Bange 6:43 8:21 9:58 13:47 16:40 18:25* 20:22 Aizu Hongo 7:05 8:43 10:19 14:08 17:01 18:47 20:43 Nanuka-machi 7:18 8:53 10:32 14:18 17:15 18:58 20:54 Aizu-Wakamatsu 7:22 8:56 10:36 14:21 17:18 19:01 20:58 *Train starts from Aizu Bange   Timetable updated on April 1 2020. Please be aware that a winter timetable goes into effect every year so make sure to check the JR Tadami Line winter timetable if travelling in the winter months.   ALL STATIONS ON THE TADAMI LINE Main stations featured in the timetable above are highlighted in bold below. Underlined station names are stations where passengers must switch between train and replacement bus service. Station names written in italics, are stations where replacement bus services run. Aizu-Wakamatsu Station 会津若松駅 Nanukamachi Station 七日町駅 Nishi-Wakamatsu Station 西若松駅 Aizu-Hongo Station 会津本郷駅 Aizu-Takada Station 会津高田駅 Negishi Station 根岸駅 Niitsuru Station 新鶴駅 Wakamiya Station 若宮駅 Aizu-Bange Station 会津坂下駅 Todera Station 塔寺駅 Aizu-Sakamoto Station 会津坂本駅 Aizu-Yanaizu Station 会津柳津駅 Godo Station 郷戸駅 Takiya Station 滝谷駅 Aizu-Hinohara Station 会津桧原駅 Aizu-Nishikata Station 会津西方駅 Aizu-Miyashita Station 会津宮下駅 Hayato Station 早戸駅 Aizu-Mizunuma Station 会津水沼駅 Aizu-Nakagawa Station 会津中川駅 Aizu-Kawaguchi Station 会津川口駅 Honna Station 本名駅 Aizu-Kosugawa Station 会津越川駅 Aizu-Yokota Station 会津横田駅 Aizu-Oshio Station 会津大塩駅 Aizu-Shiozawa Station 会津塩沢駅 Aizu-Gamo Station 会津蒲生駅 Tadami Station 只見駅 Oshirakawa Station 大白川駅 Irihirose Station 入広瀬駅 Kamijo Station 上条駅 Echigo-Suhara Station 越後須原駅 Uonuma-Tanaka Station 魚沼田中駅 Echigo-Hirose Station 越後広瀬駅 Yabukami Station 藪神駅 Koide Station 小出駅

     JR Tadami Line
Top