Misaki Horses: the Rare “Wild” Horses of Cape Toi

Cape Toi

The lush greenery, turquoise sea, and the rugged coastline of Cape Toi in Miyazaki, Japan are a welcome respite from the stresses of modern life.

Cape Toi(view of sea and mountains)
A photo of Cape Toi that I took on a hot summer day five years ago

The Toi-Misaki lighthouse is a perfect vantage point to take in the sights. Cape Toi is a symphony of colors, the white lighthouse out as a pleasant contrast to the lush green hills, the skylike blue of the ocean, and the earthy colors of the rocky coastline. The lighthouse keeps ships from getting too close but it has the opposite effect on people, drawing them in year after year.

White Lighthouse
Toi Misaki Lighthouse
By Vanquish0 via Wikimedia Commons

From the lighthouse, you may spot another color in the palette of Cape Toi, a chestnut or dark brown. That would be the Misaki Horse serenely grazing in blissful ignorance of mankind. Of course, beautiful scenery is great but who would watch a play with just set design, you need a talented cast to bring it all together. The Misaki Horse is the star of Cape Toi, albeit without a Tony award(yet).

Misaki Horses

The Misaki horse is a dark-colored small breed of horse. Despite, horse being in its name, its height of 130 centimeters (4.3 feet) makes it a pony. It is one of Japan`s eight native horse breeds. A common attribute they share with most of the others on the list is their critically endangered status. However, their population is increasing and their population is at a stable 120. No pun intended, I would never want to run afoal of my readers. When pursuing articles about them you might see the label “wild horse” a romanticization employ to produce evocative images of horses untouched from mankind galloping in bliss in scenic vistas. But for the sake of accuracy(and general nitpickiness), feral is the correct term since they are descendants of domesticated horses.

four Misaki horses grazing
Misaki Horses grazing in Cape Toi
Photo by JKT-c  via Wikimedia Commons

History of Misaki Horses

Cape Toi was not always the home where Misaki horses roam. Like many things in Japan, horses originated from China about 2,000 years ago. Horses were useful in mankinds` favorite past times, war, work(farming), and not dying of starvation or eating in layman terms. The Misaki Horses`exact origins remain a mystery but there is no need to call, Poirot or Sherlock, as analysis of their DNA shows that they are closely related to the rare NomaTokara and Yonaguni breeds. They first appeared in the historical record in 1697, Akizuki family of the Takanabe Clan gathered up feral horses for military use.

two Misaki horses nozzling
A beautiful moment between two Misaki Horses
By Koji Ishii via Wikimedia Commons

Conservation of Misaki Horses

The horse’s population saw a decrease in the 1940s as mechanization made them obsolete in agriculture. But in 1953, they and their habitat were declared national natural monuments, and conservation measures were undertaken. These measures proved fruitful as the Misaki Horses population has rebounded. Now, our equestrian chums are the main draw for visitors from within Japan and hopefully soon from tourists around the world as well.

group of Misaki horses grazing on a hillside near a road
Photo I took of a group of Misaki horses grazing on a hillside

Access

Traveling by car is the best way. From Miyazaki city, it takes by 2 hours and 2.5 hours from Kagoshima city. The nearest train station to Cape Toi is Jr Kushima station, from there it’s a 45-minute bus ride to Cape Toi.

Hours: 9:00-5:15(visitor center) 9:00- 4:30 (lighthouse)

Closed days: Closed on Mondays(If Monday is a holiday, it is closed Tuesday.)


Admission: ¥400 per car( to take care of the horses)

Additional Information

For more information, check out Cape Toi`s official website.

Here are some photos, I took on my trip to Cape Toi. You will likely notice two things 1) I am not good at taking pictures 2) I am not good at being in pictures either. Regardless, I hope they give you some insight into Cape Toi and inspire you to take a trip there someday to take better photos.

If you are looking for other things to do in Miyazaki, consider visiting Takachiho, the site of one the most stories in Japanese mythology that I wrote about in a previous post.

If you are living in the US and still would like to see “wild horses”, visit Assateague Island in Maryland and Virginia. Here are some great pictures from Sharan Iconic travel blog of horses running along the beach.

2 thoughts on “Misaki Horses: the Rare “Wild” Horses of Cape Toi

  1. The scenery looks wonderful and the horses seem so fixed in their landscape that it’s hard to believe they are ‘wild’ horses, but they are probably akin to our New Forest ponies which are ‘wild’ in the fact that nobody owns them. Lovely post, thanks for bringing an unknown part of Japan to my desk.

    1. They have been there for hundreds of years and it definitely feels like their home now. Their grazing has definitely altered the landscape over time. Thanks for reading and for the comment!

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