Travel to the Northernmost Part of Japan! Meet Reindeer in Horonobe-cho, Hokkaido
Did you know that there is a town in Japan where you can see a herd of reindeer? Yes, its reindeer from that song, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”. The name of this unique town is Horonobe-cho. Horonobe-cho is located at 45 degrees north latitude, about 50km from Wakkanai City, the northernmost part of Japan. The town, being almost the same size as the 23 wards of Tokyo, has about 2,400 residents, about 9,000 cows and also some reindeer living in it.
Reindeers Come to Town!
It started with the powerful dream of a single boy to have “Reindeer as livestock, in Japan”. The boy travelled to Finland to learn how to raise reindeer, then, travelled throughout Hokkaido in search of the perfect land to raise reindeer and finally came to Horonobe-cho one day.
In 1989, with about 10 reindeer brought to Horonobe-cho from the Nordic country of Finland, and the help of several volunteers from the town, the boy embarked on realizing his dream of being the first in Japan to keep reindeer as livestock.
2 more years after that, 173 reindeer were brought again from Finland to Horonobe-cho. Today, there are 2nd generation and 3rd generation reindeer that were born in Horonobe-cho and live in the rural natural areas of Horonobe-cho, running around happily as livestock.
Horonobe-cho Tonakai Farm
The Horonobe-cho Tonakai Farm opened in Horonobe-cho in 1995 for the people who visit Hokkaido hoping to see a glimpse of “tonakai” which is the Japanese word for reindeer. There are about 60 reindeer that live on this farm.
Reindeer are naturally very mellow animals and the reindeer of this farm spend leisurely lives in the vast land, mingling with the people that come to visit them.
1. Try Feeding Them!
Take some reindeer food in your hand and approach the reindeer. You will find that the reindeer will come to you. They use their tongues skillfully to eat off of your hand. You may feel a bit nervous at first, but don’t be afraid, they won’t bite! Seeing them up close, you realize how cute their eyes are.
2. Ride a Reindeer Sleigh!
You get to feel what its like to be Santa Clause. While you’re at it, don’t forget to get a picture with the reindeer. At the farm, you can rent a Santa Clause outfit free of charge.
3. So Cute! Baby Reindeer
Every year in May, cute baby reindeer are born one after another at the Tonakai Farm. From around mid-May, you will start seeing the small baby reindeer standing closely beside their mothers. This has to be the only place in Japan where you can see such a scene,
4. Reindeer Antlers
Both male and female reindeer have antlers. For male reindeers, strong antlers are a very important point to boast during the mating season from September to October. Also, it becomes a very important weapon when they try to fight other male reindeer.
After the mating season, from around November to December, the male reindeer shed their great antlers. The females shed their antlers from around April to June. It is said that this is because the females need their antlers during the harsh winters to dig out food such as moss from underneath the snow, and secure enough resources for herself and her babies that were born in the spring.
At the Tonakai Farm, they sell various crafted items made from reindeer antlers. The pieces made from real antlers look grand and very cool.
<Horonobe-cho Tonakai Kanko Bokujo (Horonobe-cho Tonakai Farm)>
Address: 398 Hokushin, Horonobe-cho, Teshio District, Hokkaido Prefecture, Map
Operating Hours: 9:00AM to 5:00PM
*Closed every Monday, End of year and new years
Reindeer Food: 200 Yen per bag
Reindeer Sleigh (Offered only during winter): Adults 510 Yen, Elementary School Children 200 Yen
Reindeer Sleigh (Notice)
*Children below elementary school age ride for free
*Hours: 10:00AM to 4:00PM
*Rides may be cancelled due to bad weather conditions. Please check in advance.
For details, see the Horonobe-cho Tonakai Farm official site.
Official site: http://tonakai-farm.com/
There’s More! Great Scenery of Horonobe-cho
There are actually many more destinations we would love for you to visit in Horonobe-cho. After enjoying petting the cute reindeer, we would love for you to stop by these great scenic spots! Here we introduce our select 2 from the many scenic points of Horonobe-cho.
1. Otonrui Windmill
Along the coastline overlooking the Sea of Japan, there is a continuous row of the Otonrui windmills. This is a must-see view. When the weather is nice, there is a view of Rishirifuji beyond the sea, which adds to this beautiful scene.
2. Sarobetsu Genya
Photo by flickr
The Sarobetsu Genya, a wilderness area designated as Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park is a vast wetland of 2 million square kilometers designated as a Ramsar site. From early summer to early autumn, you can walk through the well conditioned roads and enjoy a variety of flowers.
<Access to Horonobe-cho>
The trip to Horonobe-cho is about 4 hours from Sapporo on the JR Hokkaido Soya Main Line (Bound for Wakkanai) and about 2 1/2 hours from Asahikawa.
There is also the Engan Bus Haboro Express from Sapporo. If you are travelling by car, it is about 5 hours from Sapporo or about 1 hour from Wakkanai.
Doesn’t it make you want to travel the vast lands of Hokkaido to visit the northernmost part of Japan? We encourage you and your family to see the reindeer living a leisurely life. The cute reindeer, that live in the natural scenery of Horonobe-cho, throughout the changing seasons from Spring, Summer, Fall to Winter, should offer a sense of peace to all who visit.