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Chagu Chagu Umako Matsuri 

by: S. Rosat

100 horses parade in a merry jingling of bells from a mountain village down to the town.
Date: Second Saturday of June
Place: Takizawa village & Morioka-city, Iwate prefecture in Tohoku region (northern Japan).
A hundreds of horses, decorated with brightly colored harnesses and bells, parade from the mountain village of Takizawa down to Morioka city. A walk of about 15 km departing at 9:30AM from Onikoshi-Sozen shrine, dedicated to the deity of horses, in Takizawa village and arriving around 2PM at Hachiman-gu shrine in Morioka city. If you wish to savour a more traditional atmopshere, we recommend that you go to Takizawa-mura which is a very pretty village at the foot of Mt. Iwate to watch the parade of horses walking through the ricefields instead of the modern city streets...

The horses are most of them ridden by small children whose legs are tied to the horse's seat not to fall. This is impressive to see some very small and young children riding such big and wide horse...
This event was first organized about 200 years ago as a reward for the horses which had worked so hard in rice planting. Since ancient times, Iwate prefecture has been known as a horse-breeding region where horses are so much treasured that some people still live together with horses in the same house like it was the custom in the ancient times. Chagu Chagu Umako matsuri is part of the festival celebrating the completion of rice planting, which is a tiring task for both men and horses.
The name "Chagu Chagu" is an onomatopeic expression refering to the bells sounding as the horses trot along. This pleasant sound has been chosen by the Ministry of the Environment as one of the 100 best sonic scenes of Japan to be preserved. The bell hung below the horse's neck, which makes this pleasant "Chagu Chagu" sound, was originally a bell to repeal wolves.