Samurai festival returns to disaster-hit Minamisoma

(Japan) People in Minamisoma, a small community about 20 kilometers from the nuclear plant that went into meltdown after the giant tsunami last year, are celebrating the 1,000 year old Samurai festival which was cancelled previous year following the disaster.

Clad in 10th century samurai armour, Ishin Takahashi was among thousands who took part in the weekend festival hoping that the festival will help lift spirits in their disaster-struck community—and inspire the younger generation.

“This is a symbolic first step to recovery,” the 69-year-old told AFP.

“Some of our communities remain devastated, but I’m sure we can rebuild them or make them even better.”

Many of the Minamisoma residents have fled to other communities across Japan over fears about living in the shadow of the doomed reactors.

But on Saturday its street came alive with locals—many of them returning just for the festival—galloping triumphantly on horses around a specially-built hippodrome for “Soma Nomaoi”, or wild horse chase.

Clad in decorated helmets and carrying razor-sharp traditional Japanese swords, participants swaggered about on horseback followed by a feudal lord’s procession decorated with colorful banners displaying their family crests.

The sound of conch horns echoed through the streets with tens of thousands of visitors coming out to see the ancient show of military pomp and pageantry featuring about 400 hundred horses.

“Nomaoi is my motivation in life,” said Kohei Inamoto, a 20-year-old plant worker who temporarily returned for the event after he and his family fled to Chiba, south of Tokyo.

“Nomaoi is my ‘soul’ connection with my hometown. If there were no Nomaoi, I would have abandoned my hometown.”

The heritage event aims to recreate a medieval battlefield, having originated from secret military exercises held by samurai warriors from the tight-knit Soma clan.

“I’m glad to see the festival come back… but we are too old to keep it going,” said Shigeru Ouchi, 60, standing beside his steed.b

“I’m concerned that young people are disappearing from the town after the disaster, but I hope the remaining youth will take it over and pass the baton to the next generation,” he added.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!