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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Performing Arts
Kurabe-uma
Horse racing events. Also called kioiuma, komakurabe or keiba. From ancient times such events were held at the court, but during the Heian period (794-1191) they came to be performed by military officers as displays of martial skill and they also took on the character of events to dispel early summer pestilence during this period. These events came to be performed as part of the annual observances of the fifth day of the fifth month (Boy's Festival). An equestrian archery contest (umayumi, mayumi, kishin) was held on the on the fifth day and was followed on the sixth by horse races (also archery and other equestrian events). Members of the imperial guard would be divided into two sides (left and right) and compete in a series of races. It was at this time that costumes and equestrian methods were fixed. The Engishiki records the offering of horse running at several shrines, including the Upper and Lower Kamo Shrines, Ōmiwa Shrine, Kasuga Shrine, and Ōharano Shrine. In particular, the races on the fifth day of the fifth month at Kamowake Ikazuchi Shrine were a popular event in the capital area and drew large crowds. Races were held at various regional shrines as well. The tenth volume of the Kokon Chomonjū includes the following reference to a shrine race: "On the shrine grounds the horse races are held first. In the case of the court ceremony, the event begins with the white horses." This is probably a reference to the races at the Kamo Shrine. In any case, it can be said to indicate how horse races were incorporated into Shinto ceremonies. There are also horse races in which the horses run riderless.

— Yonei Teruyoshi
Horse racing(kurabe-uma) performed on the occasion of the Aoi festival at Kami Kamo jinja

Shinto Museum of Kokugakuin University

Footage of the Kurabe-uma Jinji at Kamowakeikazuchi Shrine.

Kyoto, 2006

©Sakamoto Naoko

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