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Horse Festival in Morioka City

In Japan, June is the month to bid farewell to the spring, which is also meant to wrap up the rice planting season. In Morioka, an ancient festival – Chagu Chagu Umako – is held on the second Saturday in June annually. This year, the festival will take place on June 14.

Taking a break with the horse

‘Chagu Chagu’ is an onomatopoeic expression of the sound of the bells. And right now you must wondering where are the sound comes from. It comes from the 100 horses parading down from a mountain village, which is fifteen kilometers away from Takizawa Village to Morioka City. And these horses with their bells are carefully decorated with colored harnesses and lots of bells.

Beautifully dressed horses with donut-shaped bells hung on their necks

The beautifully decorated horses will be carrying a donut-shaped bell on their necks while parading in the city. The bells were originally used to scared off wolves.

The music made from the bells, which created pleasant “songs,” has been chosen by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment as one of the “100 best sonic scenes of Japan to be preserved into the future.”

The sound from the bells hang on the horses’ necks make beautiful music during the parade

Rice planting is no easy work. It has been of the hardest rituals since ancient times. And hence, at the end of every rice planting season local folks will usually organise a celebration as a token of appreciation for the hard work done. Here in Morioka, the celebration created about 200 years ago is not only recognising the hard work of the farmers, but also the horses.

Chagu Chagu Umako was to reward the horses

Chagu Chagu Umako was first organised to reward the rice field horses, who toiled hard during the planting season.

Farmers and the hard-working horse

Since ancient times, Iwate Prefecture has been known as a horse-breeding district, and horses are treasured to such an extent that the custom of people living together with horses in the same house still remains.

Hundreds of horses parading through Morioka City

At 9:30 on the festival day, the horses depart from Sozen-jinja Shrine, dedicated to the deity of horses, in Takizawa City, and after passing in front of JR Morioka Station, arrive at the Morioka Hachiman-gu Shrine located in Morioka City around 14:00.

Although it is interesting to watch the horses trotting through the modern city streets, we recommend that you go as far as Takizawa City which is a very pretty place at the foot of Mt. Iwatesan, if you wish to savor a very traditional atmosphere.

Event Details

Venue: Onikoshi-Sozen-jinja Shrine
Date: 14 June 2014
Transport: Shuttle bus no. 16 (only on festival day) from Morioka JR Station

Final point – Morioka Hachimangu Shrine

8:30 Horses gather at Onikoshi Sozen Shrine, Takizawa
9:30 Parade starts from Onikoshi Sozen Shrine
13:55 Arrives at Morioka Hachimangu Shrine

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