Nomaoi Samurai who stand here were the residents of the area near Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. They are unable to live there anymore but are able to enter the territory during a day. The Nomaoi men took me to the restricted area, to the places personally meaningful to them, reviving memories of home.
Armored from head to toe with inherited familial flags hanging from their backs, five hundred samurai storm forward recreating a battle scene. Soma Nomaoi is an annual celebration of samurai culture in Fukushima more than one thousand years old.
The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 caused widespread destruction including the explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. About two thousand people died in Fukushima, eighty per cent of whom were from the area where the Soma Nomaoi is held. Due to the radiation, the people were forced to relocate the day after the disaster, with many indefinitely losing their houses, land and jobs.
Despite the harsh conditions, loss of lives and loss of hundreds of their horses and much of their armory, the majority of the surviving Nomaoi men agreed to hold the gathering in 2011, just a few months after the disaster.
Having spent a month with the local people between summer and autumn 2012, I believe Soma Nomaoi is not just an event but an embodiment of their identity and fight for survival. This unique sense of identity represents not only how, but why, they live.