Hundreds of armor-clad participants on horseback parade through the streets of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, during the Soma Nomaoi festival on a typically blistering hot day at the end of July every year.

As impressive as this spectacle may sound, the parade is actually the precursor to a breathtaking show of horsemanship that is performed at the local racetrack later the same day.

Carrying gargantuan flags emblazoned with clan imagery, riders guide their horses around the track at breakneck speed in an electrifying race before participating in a flag-catching ceremony that harkens back to the savage battles of the Sengoku period (1482-1573)