Padang ekspres.net-FUKUSHIMA — An annual festival that traces its roots to the 10th century opened Saturday in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, featuring dozens of horsemen in full samurai armor and offering prayers for the victims of the March 11 quake and tsunami.
|Paying their respects: Participants in the Soma Nomaoi festival in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, pray Saturday for the victims of the March 11 quake and tsunami. KYODO PHOTO|
The event was almost canceled because of the Tohoku catastrophe and the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear crisis, but the organizing committee of the Soma Nomaoi (Soma Wild Horse Chase), headed by Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai, decided to carry on the ancient tradition, albeit on a smaller scale. As in previous years, the festival will run from Saturday through Monday.
During a ceremony at Soma Nakamura Shrine to kick off the three-day event, Michitane Soma, 36, the eldest son of the 33rd patriarch of the former Soma clan, offered prayers for the disaster victims.
Held every summer at three shrines located in the cities of Soma and Minamisoma, the festival features cavalry and horsemanship, along with a variety of ancient ceremonies.
This year, organizers were forced to cancel two of three key events as they are held between 20 km and 30 km from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the zone in which residents must be ready to evacuate or stay indoors in an emergency.