Festivals & Events
Soma Nomaoi 相馬野馬追
See races, processions, and the samurai spirit at this ancient horse festival
Over a thousand years old, the Soma Nomaoi is a celebration of martial skill and horse riding. After 2011, it has also become a symbol of resilience and survival for the people of Soma. It usually takes place on the last weekend in July.
- Ogyouretsu, the procession of horse riders in full samurai gear
- Kachu Keiba, the main horse racing event
- Nomakade, the horse-capturing ritual
How to Get There
The Soma can easily be reached by bus, train or rental car.
The easiest route is to go by Tohoku Shinkansen to Sendai Station, before changing to the JR Joban Line for Haranomachi Station. A special shuttle bus takes visitors to Minamisoma City during the festival.
Martial prowess and spirit on show
This three-day festival takes in the Soma District , which has long been a horse-breeding region. The Soma Nomaoi event began as military exercises, organized by the founder of the Soma clan, Taira no Kojiro Masakado.
Even today, a descendant of the Soma clan assumes the role of supreme commander during the festival. The Soma Nomaoi has been designated as a Significant Intangible Folk Cultural Asset.
The event is usually held on the last weekend of July. The Buddhist departure ceremony, Shutsujin, takes place concurrently at three important shrines: Ota-jinja Shrine, Nakamura-jinja Shrine, and Odaka-jinja Shrine.
Don't miss the second day, where a parade of proud riders in traditional samurai armor ride down the street with banners of various houses and clans fluttering in the wind.
Straight out of a movie
The main race, known as Kachu Keiba, takes place at noon. Ten horse races are held, and the participants gallop around the 1,000-meter track with helmets off and banners streaming behind them in scenes that seem straight out of a movie.
Next is the Shinki-soudatsusen, where hundreds of mounted samurai fight to capture sacred flags that are shot into the air.
The last day features Nomakade, where mounted horsemen try to capture horses barehanded. These horses are then ceremoniously given as offerings to Odaka Shrine.
Back to health
The festival, canceled in the wake of the 2011 earthquake, has recovered and become an important focus for the local communities as a demonstration of hope and spirit—the same fighting spirit their samurai ancestors had.