A shrine built before the capital was moved to Kyoto in 794, Fujinomori Shrine is host to the Fujinomori Festival (also known as the Fukakusa Festival) in May. The kakeuma shinji, an acrobatic trick riding event performed during the festival, is a sight to behold, stealing the thunder from the festival’s other more traditional events such as the three mikoshi processions and priests’ offerings.
Though there aren't as many warriors riding horses off to battle like there used to be, horses still play an important part in Japanese festivals and rituals. Samurai once honed their equestrian skills as they would their abilities with a sword or bow, and along the way they came up with creative ways to ride that would prove useful in the battlefield. As the age of samurai and lords came to a close, the tradition of performing those tricks as offerings to the gods of military prowess and victory began to fade, and in this day and age only Fujinomori Shrine in southern Kyoto continues to practice this dynamic ritual during their annual Fujinomori Festival.
Once a year in early May the riders come to the shrine from the local neighborhoods and even from afar to suit up and ride before the gathered crowd with the intent of impressing the enshrined gods and those who came to enjoy the performance. Hurtling at breakneck speed down a dirt path on a horse might not be the first place you'd want to attempt to hang sideways off a one-ton animal, but these noriko (riders) have and will.
Your breath will stop when you see these athletic men hanging off the side of their horses by a single foot in the stirrup, swooping to the side to try and grab a strategically placed flag mid-run, and even performing stands with their feet in the air. While samurai in battle were not quite so flexible in armor, these acrobatic feats are reminiscent of moves that mounted soldiers were trained to perform, such as how to shift in the saddle to avoid enemies, swat away barrages of arrows, and evade fire. With the locals working hard to keep the tradition alive, it seems they'll be performing these daring tricks for years to come, no matter how the times may change.
Things to See/Do
May 1st - May 5th
May 5th: Trick Riding Ritual (Kakeuma Shinji), 13:00 and 15:00
〒612-0863 京都府京都市 伏見区深草鳥居崎町609
- General Admission: Free
- General Admission: 09:00 – 17:00
- Closed: No closing days