Horse chase festival reinstated in Fukushima after decontamination

FUKUSHIMA — The Soma wild horse chase festival, a tradition dating back more than 1,000 years, resumed Saturday close to its usual size after being scaled down last year in the wake of the natural and nuclear disasters. Back in the saddle: Riders take part in the Soma Nomaoi wild horse festival Saturday in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture. KYODO The three-day Soma Nomaoi event in Fukushima Prefecture re-creates the act of warriors honing their battleground skills by chasing unleashed wild horses cast as the enemy. Last year, areas used in the event were turned into no-go zones due to the nuclear crisis, reducing the horse count to 82. Thanks to decontamination work and a redrawing of the hot zones, about 400 horses are expected this year, bringing the herd size back up to roughly 80 percent. Inaugural ceremonies were held at three shrines, including Soma Nakamura Shrine in the city of Soma. Local Mayor Hidekiyo Tachiya, who also serves as 'chief general' at the festival, commanded his troops to "march majestically." Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai, who heads the organizing committee for the event, said, "We would like to pray for the repose of the souls of those who perished and express our gratitude for having been able to stage this festival as a symbol of reconstruction." Kids get Italian vacation Kyodo CAGLIARI, Italy — Twelve children from Fukushima Prefecture have arrived in Cagliari, Italy, for a summer vacation at the invitation of a nonprofit group based in Milan. The children, six boys and six girls aged between 7 and 12, landed on the island of Sardinia Friday and will stay through Aug. 25. They will take part in vegetable farming, horse riding and exchanges with local children. "I want to take care of animals and swim in the sea," a 9-year-old boy from Shirakawa said upon arriving at the airport. A 10-year-old girl from Date said, "I'm looking forward to cooking vegetables." The Orto dei Sogni NPO, which was established last October by Japanese and Italians living in Milan to support children affected by the March 2011 quake and tsunami, collected contributions in the city to fund the visit. Source: The Japan Times Online

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