On the second Sunday of June, you can hear a beautiful sound coming from horses’ bells. This is known as “chagu-chagu,” which is an onomatopoetic expression for it. Thus, the event is known as Chagu Chagu Umakko, a festival of horses. In Iwate prefecture, about 100 horses with brightly colored harnesses parade through a distance of 15 km from Takizawa City to Morioka City.
About 200 years ago, this event was first organized as a reward for horses which had done hard work in tilling the soil during the season of rice planting. Iwate Prefecture has always been known as a horse-breeding district. Horses were treasured to such an extent that the people would live with their horses in the same house. This tradition is still being observed by some people in the area.
At 9:30 am, on the festival day, the horses depart from Onikoshi-Sozen-jinja Shrine, which is dedicated to the deity of horses, in Takizawa City. After passing in front of JR Morioka Station, they arrive at the Morioka-Hachiman-gu Shrine at 2:00 pm. It is very interesting to watch the horses trotting along the modern streets. However, it would be better if you can go as far as Takizawa City which is a gorgeous place at the foot of Mt. Iwate. This will help you savor a very traditional atmosphere!
The horses have doughnut-shaped bells that hang around their necks. These served an old purpose of warding off wolves. Many of the riders are children who are guided by adults. Their legs are tied to the horses to prevent them from falling off. There are hundreds of people who attend the parade eager to listen to the ringing of the bells.
The Chagu-Chagu Umakko Festival is an important example of Japanese culture and tradition as well as the deep bond between Iwate’s people and their horses.