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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan. Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan.
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare. An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare.
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife. Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife.
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan. Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan.
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara. The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara.
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower. Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower.
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving. Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving.
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky. The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky.
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

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.

Don't Miss

  • 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.