“Galloping Horses like Dragons: The Soma-Nomaoi Festival and Soma-yaki” Exhibition in Paris

The Japan Foundation will hold the “Galloping Horses like Dragons: The Soma-Nomaoi Festival and Soma-yaki” Exhibition at the Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris, introducing visitors to Soma-yaki pottery and to the Soma-Nomaoi Festival. These historical legacies have been passed down through the ages in the Hamadori, a lowland area on the Pacific Coast of Fukushima Prefecture.

The heart of the exhibition centers on a display which gives visitors a taste of the dynamic Soma-Nomaoi Festival, and on some particularly fine examples of Soma-koma-yaki, fired in the kiln that used to produce offerings for the feudal lords. The Great East Japan Earthquake caused considerable damage to both the festival and the manufacture of Soma-yaki; this exhibition is being held with the aim of giving visitors a taste of these rich historical legacies while also creating awareness of the regeneration process in Fukushima Prefecture, the area which forms the setting for these customs, and of the need for a speedy recovery in the area.

Image picture of The Soma-Nomaoi Festival
The Soma-Nomaoi Festival: Armored horse race
Photo: Minami Soma Tourism Association

Photo of Soma-koma-yaki
Soma-koma-yaki: Created by Tashiro Seijiuemon II
Photo: Minami-Soma City Museum


“Galloping Horses like Dragons: The Soma-Nomaoi Festival and Soma-yaki” Exhibition
Dates Tuesday, September 2 – Saturday, September 13 2014
Opening times: Tuesday–Saturday,12:00 - 19:00 (Thursdays, 12:00 - 20:00)
Closed on Sundays and Mondays
Venue Entrance lobby (street level), Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris
No. of items on display 30 items
Organized by The Japan Foundation Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris
In cooperation with Minami Soma City Museum
Assisted by All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd. logo of ANA
  • *Admission free
Associated event: Lecture on “The past and present of the Soma-Nomaoi Festival” by the curator of Minami Soma City Museum
Time Wednesday, September 3, 18:30 - 20:30
Venue Small Room, Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris
Lecturer Fumihiko Futakami (Curator, Minami Soma City Museum)
  • *Admission free

The Soma-Nomaoi Festival

(Soma-Nomaoi Executive Committee Homepage )

The Soma-Nomaoi Festival is said to have its origins in the military training exercises undertaken by samurai warriors, in which wild horses were used to simulate enemy forces. The ritual event that the exercises have developed into has now been designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property, and is held in late July each year. In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 there were concerns that the event might not be hosted; however, when the festival was successfully held once again on a reduced scale a mere five months after the earthquake in spite of the damage, it provided a tremendous boost to the morale of local people in the area as a symbol of the regeneration of Fukushima, attracting an even more enthusiastic following than before. Around 450 horses were entered this year, bringing the event back to approximately the scale it had enjoyed prior to the earthquake.


Soma-yaki first began to be made as a local form of ceramics in the Nakamura Domain during the Edo period; types include Soma-koma-yaki which was traditionally bestowed on the lords of the Soma Clan who governed the local area for many generations, and Obori-soma-yaki, a ceramic for more general use which was traded in large quantities over a wider area. Both types are decorated with the image of a galloping horse resembling a dragon, which traces its origins to the family crest of the Soma Clan and which hints at the powerful connection that has existed between people and horses in this region since time out of mind. Sadly, all Obori-soma-yaki kilns have ceased operations in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake; however, a movement is now afoot to restart production at new sites.

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