Shimokita Peninsula, Shiriyazaki and Osorezan 下北半島
Departing michi-no-eki Lake Ogawara, we travel up the Shimokita Peninsula to Shiriyazaki to visit the horses. Shimokita Peninsula is very sparsely populated and the long, straight roads past the atomic waste dump encourage the few cars on the road to travel very fast. The road is mostly boarded by forest with an occasional glimpse of the sea. Just before you arrive at Shiriyazaki there is a massive Mitsubishi cement works with its own port.
Shiriyazaki itself is a grassy headland with outcrops of rock and a small lighthouse. The grass is cropped short by the horses. There is free parking but an entrance fee for the lighthouse.
The horses are larger than I expected. Bigger and more sturdy than the horses in Cape Toi, Miyazaki pref.. Initially we spot only two but then we see perhaps another twenty down closer to the stony beach. The horses ignore the tourist who, like us take picture of them, and, in some cases, stroke or pat them despite the signs warning not to.
In defiance of the grazing horses, there are a lot of wild flowers plus seagulls, cormorants, crows and kestrels. A fine blustery place of sea views and wildlife not developed as a tourist trap. In April you must leave the area by 3.45pm and from May to November by 4.45pm. Shiriyazaki is closed in winter.
Leaving the horses, we head for Osorezan. This involves a drive, climbing up winding, narrow roads and then descending into the basin of Osorezan. This temple (Bodaiji) is one of the three holiest Buddhist sites in Japan. Hieizan and Koyasan being the others. So far as temple architecture goes, forget it, but the sulphurous wasteland dotted with Ojizo-sama and colourful windmills contrasting with the serene Lake Usori and wooded mountains is well worth a visit. It is also handy as one of the entrances to the underworld.
The contrast between the volcanic wasteland and the serene lake symbolizes Heaven and Hell. The windmills and Ojizo-sama tell you that this is a place where still-born and aborted foetuses are mourned, along with the more long lived deceased.
The temple is also famous as a place where you can communicate with the dead through the mediums. Traditionally these were blind women. They still exist, apparently, but, although we saw the buildings where these communications take place, there was nobody there.
Osorezan is one of the strangest temples I have seen in Japan.
After Osorezan, we drive to Mutsu city to pick up food and then make for michi-no-eki Yokohama on route 279 for the night. The Road Station is fine but the toilets are far from modern, adequate at best. Torrential rain all night.
＊Osorezan Bodaiji open May~October, 6:00~18:00, 500 yen/adult
michi-no-eki Yokohama ; elevation about 20m.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.