Chagu Chagu Umako – Japans Horse Festival

Second Saturday of June.

Morioka City, Iwate prefecture, Japan.

Chagu Chagu Umakko Japans Horse Festival

Image Courtesy: urasimaru used under the Creative Commons Licence

The festivals celebrated in Japan have a unique cultural significance and are quite a feast for the eyes. Chagu Chagu Umako horse festival in Japans that is celebrated in Morioka City of the Iwate Prefecture.

It is held on the second Saturday of June, in which about 100 colorfully clad horses parade from Onikoshi Sozen Shrine in Takizawa to Morioka Hachimangu Shrine.

An interesting thing about the festival is that the weather in June is actually rainy, but strangely, the day of Chagu Chagu is always blessed with sunshine.

While June is the month for the farmers to wrap up the rice planting season, the festival in olden days was celebrated to reward the horses by the farmers who would use them to plough their fields. The farmers would also take the horses to the shrines and pray for their good health and safety. The practice over the years became a custom and now the farmers decorate their horses with colourful sashes and bells.

Iwate prefecture is known to be the horse-breeding district and hence the horses are the most treasured assets of the farmers.

The term chagu-chagu is an onomatopoeic expression for the sound made by the horses’ bells that are tied around them and Umako is the Japanese term for horses. In fact, the sound of the bells of the Chagu Chagu Umako was selected by the Ministry of the Environment as one of the 100 Soundscapes of Japan.

During the festival you can see many children mounted over the horses with their legs tied to them to prevent them from falling. They are guided by adults on foot and are seen sporting black outfits with bandanas and hats. Hundreds of people, including visitors, attend the parade passing through the streets.

The Chagu Chagu Umako festival is a classic example of Japanese culture and tradition, which portrays a strong bond between man and nature.

You can also see the kids and adults making wooden horse dolls with colourful and decorative items at Morioka Handi-works Square which come in various sizes and shapes. It is quite fun and a rewarding experience for both the children and adults to see their horse dolls rich in splendor after they are completed.

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