Horse Racing Samurai Style

Jul 10th, 2009 | By | Category: Events

samurai horseback japan festival Samurai on horseback, parading through town and competing in contests with a history that dates back more than 1000 years.  That’s what you will witness if you attend the three day Soma Noma-oi Festival in Fukushima prefecture later this month.  A Japan National Intangible Folk Cultural Asset, this event features a parade of 500 armored samurai warriors, horse chasing and racing, and a race to capture shrine flags propelled into the air with fireworks!

It’s sure to be a heart-pumping, adrenaline filled three days for the participants and those who attend this ancient festival in Japan’s Tohoku region.

The main events take place on Hibarigahara Moor and at the Ota and Odaka Shrines, both located in Minami-Soma City, as well as at the Nakamura Shrine located in Soma City.

Soma Noma-oi Festival Schedule

The Soma Noma-oi Festival takes place from from July 23rd through July 25

July 23rd – horsemen’s entry to the field, evening ride, and Soma Bon dance parade

July 24th (main day of the festival):

  • 9:30-11AM Ogyoretsu – a procession of 500 warriors on horses marching through the streets to Hibarigahara grounds
  • 12 Noon Koshiki Kacchu Keiba – samurai horsemen clad in armor and helmets, and carrying katana swords race on horseback over a distance of 1,000 meters.
  • 1-1:3-PM Shinki Sodatsusen – Hundreds horsemen in ancient armor and helmets race to retrieve Shinki (Shrine flags) shot into the air with fireworks.
  • 7:30-8:30PM Hi-Matsuri – a fire festival is held featuring a fireworks display held in Odaka.

July 25th –  9AM-12Noon Nomagake features young men in white costumes trying to capture wild horses bare handed for the dedication to the Shrine.  (Odaka Shrine)

Soma Noma-oi Event Map (text in Japanese)

Soma Noma-oi Festival Access: Just over 3 hours JR Joban Line Limited Express “Super Hitachi” from JR Ueno Sta. to Haranomachi Station.  From Haranomachi Station take the JR Joban Line to Odaka Sta.

Online guide to the Soma Noma-oi Festival

Image Credit:  Flickr, Samurai

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  1. Hardly historical considering the fact that they are riding on European horses. The Samurai rode around on short stocky native Japanese horses half that size (originally from Mongolian stock).

    European horses were introduced to Japan in the Meiji period, so riding around on them dates back only to that time.

  2. I believe that you are referring to horses similar to the Noma. As of May 2008 there were only 84 in Japan per this Japan Times article:

    The size of the size of the horses may differ but this event dates back to 973 per the online guide to the event (link above) so I would say that it is in fact historical…

  3. So I guess if a guide says it is so, then it is so. lol.

    They would have you believe that right down through the Meiji period, when people had forgotten what yoroi looked like let alone how to wear it, and everyone was doing their damnedest to distance themselves from any connection with their feudal past - that somehow a group of people were still racing around in yoroi as if they were Samurai - and on European horses to boot. Highly doubtful.

  4. @Genshin I appreciate the time that you have taken to comment but find the implication that I blindly believe that “if a guide says it is so, then it is so” slightly offensive.

    A number of sources that I used to research this article indicate that this is based on historical events dating back more than 1,000 years and that the government of Japan considers the event a National Intangible Folk Cultural Asset (by the way I don’t believe everything the government tells me either).

    Whether or not you (or I) believe that it is or isn’t an accurate historical event - it is taking place regardless and the purpose of this site is to share that information.

  5. People wear watches, glasses but tottaly okay with me to call it historical. Take it easy !

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