‘Samurai’ cavalcade enlivens Fukushima Pref. festival

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A cavalcade of “samurai” riders is seen at the Soma Nomaoi festival in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Saturday.

SOMA, Fukushima — About 40 “samurai” horse riders took part in a procession on the first day of the Soma Nomaoi festival in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Saturday.

Designated as national important folk cultural asset, the festival signified a gradual return to normal life amid the spread of the novel coronavirus. The scope of the festival, whose history stretches back more than 1,000 years, has been scaled down since 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic. This year marked the first time in three years for the festival to be held without a limit on spectator numbers.

The opening ceremony was held at Soma Nakamura Shrine in the city just after 8:30 a.m.

“I hope that everyone will be able to return to their daily lives as soon as possible,” said Toshitane Soma, 14, a member of the Soma family that used to head the former Soma-Nakamura clan, who assumed the role of supreme commander for the event.

Spectators along the street applauded loudly as the parade of riders dressed in samurai costumes rode into the town.

The festival is said to have originated as a military exercise in which horses were released into a field and treated as enemy soldiers.

Festivities are spread over three days and take place in Minami-Soma and neighboring municipalities.

The event includes Kacchu Keiba, or armored samurai horse racing; Shinki Sodatsusen, in which mounted participants fight to capture sacred flags; and Nomakake, wherein contestants try to capture unsaddled horses barehanded.