The semi-annual matsuri, or festival, of the grand Kanda shrine (神田明神) is one of Tokyo’s largest in terms of physical area covered. The whole procession takes over nine hours of walking in from Ochanomizu station in the northwest to far beyond Sutengu in the south east and it goes on for several days. It is similar in style to the Sanno Matsuri but with over 200 omikoshi attracting thousands of participants. I spent my Saturday at the festival, together with the pouring rain from morning all until morning the next day. When I took these photos in front of the Suitengu shrine the procession had already been walking for seven hours and must have thoroughly soaked. Luckily the peak of the festival which took place they day after saw fantastic weather, hot and sunny. I was out of town though so I missed it! Let’s hope that the weather is better next time around, in May 2015.
It’s Sunday afternoon here in Japan and time to share the last of my snapshots of the wild horses in Miyazaki’s Toimasaki (Cape Toi). Just looking at these photos make me want to go back there at once. Back during the bubble era there was an effort to turn these horses into a tourist attraction and a large hotel was built at the top of Toimasaki which was in business at least until 2010 but I don’t know if it still operating, it looked boarded up when I past last summer. Most people who come to view the horses and the fantastic nature here do so by car and probably stay in nearby towns. The trip to the cape is interesting and much longer than you’d think by just looking at the map. The roads are narrow and winding, and at least when I was there several sections were closed due to repairs after a couple of severe typhoons had caused mudslides and floods washing away parts of the road. There’s plenty of small hostels north of the cape but they can be hard to find. Maybe this inaccessibility makes the place even more magical! If you go there, renting a car is probably the best way of getting there.
More photos of the wonderful wild horses of Toimisaki on the southern tip of Miyazaki prefecture on the island of Kyushu. Watching the dynamics of a herd of wild horses is especially amazing, standing in the middle of these animals and seeing the horses constantly testing and refining the pecking order. Two of them, in the top image had a proper fight, you can see just the instant before the kick connects rather hard with the antagonists flank, ending that particular argument for the day I think. The loser had been pestering the other horse for a few minutes with bites and head butts, and finally it must have had enough! I don’t really have any excuses for posting more photos of these horses, except that it makes me happy and brightens up the winter morning for me to just remember the hour I spent with the horses. Truly one of my all time favorite places in Japan!
Of the many beautiful spots in Miyazaki prefecture there are few that rivals Toimisaki (Cape Toi) and the reserve that has been created for the wild horses that live there. Comparable to the Dartmoor ponies of England, the horses of Toimisaki are being looked after by humans but not tamed. In the old days of feudal Japan local samurai clans would select the best horses from these flocks and train them as cavalry mounts. Horses used in Japanese warfare didn’t need to be huge beasts like the ones in Europe, due to the lack of heavy metal armor and artillery, so these hardy ponies used to living of the land were much more suitable for Japan’s mostly civil wars. Toimisaki is a cape right on the southern end of Miyazaki prefecture on the south east of Kyushu and it has a sub-tropical climate. As you enter the protected area, by car usually, as it is quite far from anywhere, you drive through a most stunningly beautiful set of deep forest valleys and lush grassy hills. Here and there you’ll see small flocks of these horses and I was lucky to stumble upon a small flock that were grazing the sides of the road. Most of the other cars passing through stopped and some people got out to look at the horses closer up. Horses are such magnificent creatures, it is hard not to get great shots of them! More photos of the Miyzakai wild horses to come!