Photo:Rod Walters

Otomouma Horse Running at Kamo Shrine

Kikuma is a small town between Matsuyama and Imabari in Ehime Prefecture. Kamo Shrine in Kikuma stands against a hillside near a little river that runs down to the Seto Inland Sea. The area retains the atmosphere of the Showa Period when the forestry industry thrived in the nearby mountains.

Until recently, hundreds of horses were kept here to drag logs down from the mountains. Once a year in the autumn festival, the horses are run up the slope to Kamo Shrine. Today just 18 horses are kept by local farmers for the purpose of running in the festival, which is an Intangible Cultural Property. The horses are ridden by young boys in their early teens.

The event starts at 8:00 am. The horses gallop past the roughly erected barriers within inches. It’s incredibly exciting. The boys are dressed in multicolored clothes with ribbons, and the shiny horses are adorned with padded and embroidered saddles. After their dash up the slope beside the shrine, the panting, snorting horses are led back down by handlers in white jodhpurs and purple happi coats.

Not everything goes smoothly. Sometimes a boy falls off and an ambulance comes.

Besides the horses, there are parades of omikoshi god boxes, and a bizarre horse-like thing made of fabric and wood carried by men in festival attire. There are also performances of a dragon dance where several people stand on each other’s shoulders and wave a small child around. It’s heart-stopping to watch.

Photo: Rod Walters
Photo: Rod Walters
Photo: Rod Walters
Photo: Rod Walters
Photo: Rod Walters
Photo: Rod Walters

The event is held on the third Sunday of October every year. The horse running ends at about 11 am.
Website (Japanese):

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