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Chagu Chagu Umakko: A Unique Horse Festival in Iwate

The annual horse festival has been held since ancient times as a way for farmers to thank their workhorses and to pray for their health and protection.



A parade of workhorses at the Chagu Chagu Umakko festival on June 8. Takizawa City, Iwate Prefecture. (©Kyodo)

Chagu Chagu Umakko is a vibrant horse festival celebrated annually in Iwate Prefecture, with events held in various locations, including Morioka City. On the second Saturday of June, workhorses adorned with colorful accessories and garments parade through both rural and urban areas. The festival is renowned for the distinctive sounds of the bells on the horses.

Workhorses parade along a rice paddy on June 8. Takizawa City, Iwate Prefecture. (©Kyodo)

Thanking the Workhorses

On June 8 in Morioka City, around 70 horses, each carrying children dressed in kimonos, departed from Onikoshi Sozen Shrine in Takizawa City. They slowly marched approximately 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) to Morioka Hachimangu Shrine. 

Both children and workhorses were dressed up for the occasion on June 8. Takizawa City, Iwate Prefecture. (©Kyodo)

A 12-year-old student from Morioka City was among the children riding the horses. Smiling shyly, they shared, "It was my second time riding a horse. I was pretty high up, but I wasn't scared. I got to see a lot of interesting things."

A young rider on a workhorse waving on June 8. Takizawa City, Iwate Prefecture. (©Kyodo)

The festival's name, "Chagu Chagu," is an onomatopoeia for the sound of the bells. This tradition began as a way for farmers to express gratitude and pray for the health and safety of their workhorses. In 1978, the Japanese government designated the festival as an intangible folk cultural asset.


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun