Festivals & Events
Over a thousand years old, the Soma Nomaoi is a celebration of martial skill and horse riding, and after 2011, a defiant symbol of resilience and survival for the people of Soma.
Soma city can easily be reached bus, train or you can even rent a car if you'd prefer.
Train services are fully restored to the area after the 2011 earthquake, so the easiest route would be to go by Tohoku Shinkansen to Sendai station, before changing to the JR Joban line for Haranomachi station. A special shuttle bus will take visitors to Minamisoma City during the festival.
Note that ticket prices apply, depending on which event you want to see.
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, organised by the founder of the Soma clan, Taira no Kojiro Masakado, and 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 in the last weekend of July, and involves all the former territories of Soma - 2 cities, 4 towns, and a village. 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 armour ride down the street with banners of various houses and clans flying in the wind.
The main race, Kacchu Keiba takes place at noon. Ten horse races are held, and the participants gallop in full flight around the 1000m track with helmets off and banners streaming behind them, in scenes that seemed straight out of a movie. Next, the Shinki-soudatsusen is held, where hundreds of mounted samurai fight to capture sacred flags that are shot into the air.
On the last day, Nomakade takes place, where mounted horsemen try to capture horses barehanded. These horses are then ceremoniously given as offerings to Odaka Shrine. The entire three day festival is a merry, noisy affair, with crowds up to 40,000 watching.
In the wake of the 2011 earthquake, the festival was cancelled, but was held the following year in reduced numbers. Nowadays, it has recovered to its pre-disaster numbers, and in addition to being a celebration of the unique festival of Soma, has become an important focus for the local communities to rally behind, as a demonstration of hope and spirit, and indeed, the same fighting spirit as their samurai ancestors of old.