Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
  • Hokkaido
Sub-zero temperatures and the greatest of outdoor environments, complemented by sizzling soul food and warm-hearted welcomes. 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
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Sleek apple-red and electric-green shinkansen whisk you up to a haven of fresh powder snow, fresh fruit and fearsome folk legends Fearsome festivals, fresh powder and vast fruit orchards—the rugged northern territory of Tohoku offers a fresh perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
Mountains and sea meet in one of Japan's wildest regions, and the result is sheer beauty. Once largely inaccessible, Hokuriku is now reachable by shinkansen from Tokyo in a matter of hours An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Characterized by the constant buzz of the world's most populous metropolitan area, the Kanto region is surprisingly green with an array of escapes that include mountainous getaways and subtropical islands Experience diversity at its fullest, from the neon of Tokyo to the ski slopes of Gunma, exotic wildlife of the Ogasawara Islands and cultural heritage of Kamakura
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Served by the shinkansen line that connects Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the Tokai region provides plenty of interesting diversions and easy excursions Tokai means "eastern sea," and this region stretches east from Tokyo to Kyoto and includes blockbuster attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
From raucous nights out to outdoor thrills to peaceful reverie, trying to categorize the Kansai region is a futile task The Kansai region is one of extreme contrasts—the neon lights of Osaka and glittering Kobe nightscape, the peaceful realms of Shiga, Wakayama and Nara, and the cultured refinement of Kyoto
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Less-traveled and delightfully inaccessible at times, the Chugoku region is a reminder that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination Welcome to Japan's warm and friendly western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Providing the stage for literary classics, fevered dancing and natural wonders Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
Easily reached by land, sea and air, the dynamic Kyushu prefectures are bubbling with energy, culture and activity The southern island of Kyushu is home to volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky, succulent seafood, steaming hot springs and the country's hottest entrepreneurial town
  • Okinawa
Ruins and recreated castles of the Ryukyu kings nestle amid magnificent beaches in Okinawa, a diver's paradise teeming with an amazing array of coral and undersea life 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 the samurai spirit, riding hard and fast in this ancient horse festival

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.

Don't Miss

  • Ogyouretsu, the procession of horse riders in full samurai gear
  • Kacchu Keiba, the main horse racing event
  • Nomakade, the horse-capturing ritual

How to Get There

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.

Martial 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, 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.

Like it's straight out of a movie

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.