Minami-Soma is Pendleton Oregon’s sister city beginning with an affiliation with the predecessor town Haramachi and Mayor Monma and after 2006 when three cities merged (Haramachi, Odaka, and Kashima) to become Minami-Soma. On March 11, 2011 Minamisōma was heavily damaged by the Great Tohoku Earthquake and partially flooded by the tsunami which left some 400 residents confirmed dead and some 1,100 missing one month after the disaster. Then news of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster reached Minami-sōma which is only about 25 kilometres (16 miles) north of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. The Japanese National Government and TEPCO were unclear about the details of the breached reactor accident but Minami-Soma is located within the mandated evacuation zone most of the residents were forced to leave. We visited in July 2012 when residents had returned amidst concerns about information regarding the levels of radiation that varied during the past year and yet with confidence that they can continue to rebuild the community that came together so strongly in support of each other during the past year. The festival is testimony to that community strength.
The annual Wild Horse Festival a tradition for over 1000 years was only able to take place on a much reduced level in July 2011 but in 2012 plans were made to reschedule the full event with Samurai Parade through the city, horse races on the track, and the capture the flag event in the field. It was time to show the world that Minami-Soma and Fukushima was recovering the disaster of 2011. We were impressed with the scale and the spirit of the event! After a most impressive Samurai Parade through the city and the excitement of the horse races around the track shown in my earlier blog we saw the amazing capture the flag competition in the central field where a flag or banner is shot from a cannon over the riders on horses and as it falls to the field the riders must capture it by spear. Some riders fall off and it is a wonder no one is injured. The winners then ride up the winding path on the hill to present their flag to the awards official.
Here are photos of the capture the flag event.