By Peter Sidell
Hidden on the furthest northeastern tip of Honshu lies Cape Shiriya. The seascape in this area, with its dark rocks and cliffs, is certainly scenic. The iconic lighthouse, built in 1876, is also historic and picturesque. Both of these things would certainly make Cape Shiriya worth the trip. However, the real reason to go is to see the wild horses.
The Kandachime, literally meaning ‘to stand in the cold’, are horses that can withstand the cold temperatures of Aomori. According to Aomori Prefectural Government, the name comes from the fact that they stand upright and still throughout the winter. Certainly these horses can probably handle the snow and cold better than me.
I visited Cape Shiriya in October and it was only beginning to get chilly. When I went, I didn’t expect to actually see the horses. My friend and I, optimistically (in my opinion), bought two bags of carrots before leaving Misawa. As we neared the cape, we noticed some horse-themed decorations in the area. After entering the Cape, it wasn’t long before we saw the horses wandering around the area.
There are a few parking lots in the area, so we pulled into one. As I got out of the car, one of the horses immediately began coming over to me. I wasn’t sure how friendly they were, so I began backing away. That’s when the horse started to nuzzle me.
As it turns out, most of the horses are very friendly. They will come up to you and let you pet them. I would advise remaining cautious, of course. While I wouldn’t say the horses are exactly wild, they are animals and there’s no supervision in handling them. However, I highly recommend bringing some carrots. We fed several of the horses, and they were very amenable to being fed. One of them followed us around even after the carrots were gone. We saw about 15 different horses of varying colors and sizes. Seeing them run next to the ocean or drink from a pool of water was highly enjoyable.
After petting and watching the horses, we looked around the Cape. The views are really great, and there is a small shrine on a cliff. We also saw an island with an interesting torii gate. There’s a small gift shop and snack shop you can visit as well. There’s a couple of English signs around the area, but mostly everything is in Japanese. This wasn’t a real issue though, so even if your Japanese is poor, you can successfully visit the area. Cape Shiriya is about three hours north from Misawa. The easiest way is to drive north on Route 338, and then follow the signs for Shiriyazaki or Cape Shiriya.
One point of warning: although the horses are friendly, keep in mind that they are wild animals. As such, their behavior can change suddenly. Use caution if approaching these majestic animals.
If you are looking for a unique experience, scenic views, or just love horses, I would recommend visiting Cape Shiriya. It’s something different from the usual temple or museum trips that are so common here in Japan. It was definitely an adventure I won’t soon forget.
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