28 Juillet 2013
Traditional horse festival begins in Fukushima
Around 50 men dressed as samurai warriors rode on horseback through the streets of a town in Fukushima Prefecture on Saturday to open a festival that boasts a 1,000-year history.
The 3-day event is taking place near the ruins of a castle in the Soma region. Participants re-enact a ceremony held before battle in ancient times.
Similar ceremonies take place throughout the area each summer. The Japanese government has designated the festival an important intangible folk cultural asset.
Kiyotane Soma, a son of the 33rd head of the Soma family, led a team of around 50 men.
He told them to pray for the area's recovery from the 2011 disaster.
He then ordered them to advance to the site where they will re-enact a battle on Sunday.
The blast of conch shells signaled the start of their parade through the city.
An elementary school pupil from Miyagi Prefecture said she was impressed by the men and their horses. She said she is worried about the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant but wants to come to see the festival every year as her grandmother lives in Soma City.
Locals staged a smaller version of the festival in 2011, the year of the disaster. But the event returned to its normal size last year.