New Zealand to gift White Horse to Nikko Tōshōgū Shrine in Japan

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has announced New Zealand is continuing a tradition of over 50 years by gifting a white horse to Tōshōgū Shrine in Nikkō, Japan.

A New Zealand white horse has been a feature of the Tōshōgū Shrine since 1964.

Mr Peters made the announcement at a ceremony at the shrine today when he presented a framed photo of the replacement horse to the Shrine’s Chief Priest Hisao Inaba. The white horse will be shipped to Japan later this year.

“The horse is to be named Kōmaru. He is a gift of friendship from the people of New Zealand to the people of Japan and a symbol of the enduring relationship between our two countries,” said Mr Peters.

Kōmaru is a white 10-year-old purebred Andalusian gelding to replace the previous New Zealand white horse, Kōtuku, which passed away in 2017.

“Kōmaru in the Māori language means ‘sheltered’. Our hope is that Kōmaru will enjoy a long and protected life as a sacred member of the Tōshōgū Shrine,” said Mr Peters.

Mr Peters visited the shrine, located 150km north of Tokyo, as part of a three-day visit to Japan for bilateral talks and to attend the PALM8 meeting.

The Nikko Tōshōgū Shrine is one of the most famous buildings in Japan. It was built by the Tokugawa Shoguns, who ruled Japan for over 250 years. It is a World Heritage site and receives almost two million visitors each year.

Kōmaru will arrive at the shrine later in 2018, when the conditions are cooler and more comfortable for him to travel.

Contact: Stephen Parker
M: 021 195 3528
E: stephen.parker@parliament.govt.nz

Note to Editors:

Kōmaru is the fifth New Zealand white horse gifted to the shrine. The first was gifted after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, to the Japan Equestrian Association, which transferred him to the Nikko Tōshōgū Shrine. When he died in 1976, a second white horse, Marutai, was gifted to the Shrine. Marutai suffered a premature death in 1980, and the third horse, Koha, was presented by then Prime Minister Muldoon in 1981. The fourth horse, Kōtuku, was given to the shrine in 2005 by former Prime Minister Helen Clark.  Kōtuku passed away in 2017.  

The sacred white horse is a symbol of the friendship between New Zealand and Japan. The Shrine’s Chief Priest, Hisao Inaba, received the Queen Service Order from the New Zealand Government in 2008 in recognition of his contribution toward the relationship between New Zealand and Japan, as did the previous Chief Priest, Hirooki Nukaga, in 1984.

The shrine was built by the Tokugawa Shoguns, who ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. It is the final resting place of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

The shrine contains both Shinto and Buddhist elements, as was common in Japanese places of worship until the Meiji era. The main shrine and its surrounding buildings are beautiful and elaborately decorated. They are set in a picturesque forest.

Kōmaru will live in a spacious stable at the shrine, where thousands of visitors each day can see him.