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Otomouma Horse Festival

A festival perpetuating a 600-year old tradition of horse riding.

Otomouma Horse Festival

Kikuma is a small town between Matsuyama and Imabari. Kamo Shrine in Kikuma stands against a hillside near a little river that runs down to the Seto Inland Sea. The area retains the atmosphere of the Showa Period when the forestry industry thrived in the nearby mountains.

Until recently, hundreds of horses were kept here to drag logs down from the mountains. Once a year in the autumn festival, the horses are run up the slope to Kamo Shrine. Today just 18 horses are kept by local farmers for the purpose of running in the festival, which is an Intangible Cultural Property. The horses are ridden by boys in their early teens.

Otomouma_Festival_from_above

The event starts at 8:00 am. The horses gallop past the barriers within inches. It’s incredibly exciting. The boys are dressed in multicolored clothes with ribbons, and the shiny horses are adorned with padded and embroidered saddles. The more experienced boys delight in letting go of the reins and holding their arms out in a display of bravado.

Otomouma_Festival_arms_out (1)

Not everything goes smoothly. Sometimes a boy falls off and an ambulance comes. Other times, horse and rider end up in the lake behind the shrine.

After their dash up the slope beside the shrine, the panting, snorting horses are led back down by handlers in white jodhpurs and purple happi coats to start all over again.

Otomouma_Festival_divine_palanquin

Besides the horses, there are parades of omikoshi god boxes, and a bizarre horse-like thing called an Ushioni made of fabric and wood carried by men in festival attire. There are also performances of a dragon dance where several people stand on each other’s shoulders and wave a small child around. It’s heart-stopping to watch.

The festival takes place for two days on the second weekend of October.

Information

Name in Japanese: おともうま祭り

Pronunciation: otomouma matsuri

Address: 1989 Kikumachohama, Imabari, Ehime 799-2303

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