Festivals & Events
Over a thousand years old, the Soma Nomaoi is a celebration of martial skill and horse riding, and after 2011 also a defiant symbol of resilience and survival for the people of Soma. It usually takes place on the last weekend in July.
The city of 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.
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 of Japan.
The event is usually held on the last weekend of July. The Buddhist departure ceremony, Shutsujin, takes place concurrently at three important shrines: Ohta 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.
The main race, known as Kacchu Keiba, takes place at noon. Ten horse races are held, and the participants gallop around the 1000-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.
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.