The Samurai of Fukishama | Feature by Chris McGrath

Every summer the people of Fukushima prefecture have gathered to honor the ancient traditions of the Samurai at the Soma Nomaoi festival. The festival started as a military exercise more than 1000 years ago by Taira no Kojiro Masakado the founder of the Soma Clan. The three-day Shinto festival sees more than 500 horsemen recreate ancient battle scenes from the Edo Period (1603-1869). Soma city, Minamisoma and the surrounding towns of Fukushima prefecture, famous for their samurai and horse breeding traditions were heavily affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and Tsunami and the following nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. Minamisoma sits just 25 kilometers north of the nuclear power plant and residents were forced to evacuate as much of the city fell in the radiation exclusion zone. In April 2012, residents of Minamisoma were able to return to their homes after the exclusion zone was moved to 10 kilometers. The tradition of the Soma Nomaoi is extremely important to the local community, and despite the ongoing clean up operations and many of the participants losing their homes, horses and belongings, including their armor, weapons and ceremonial clothing, the festival has never been cancelled, although some events were postponed in 2011 the festival was held at full scale again in 2012 and since then has gained in momentum with local residents keen to pass on the traditions to younger generations. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)