Fukushima horse breeder Tokue Hosokawa

Tokue Hosokawa’s horses used to be well-known for their appearances in TV dramas, commercials, films and local festivals. Photograph: Kazuma Obara for the Guardian

Until March 2011, Tokue Hosokawa had only to peer through the window of his home in Iitate village to confirm that all was well with his 100-year-old family business.

The 130 or so horses that once roamed this sprawling farm in Fukushima prefecture have sustained three generations of Hosokawa’s family. Some were sold for their meat – a local delicacy – but his animals were better known for their appearances in commercials, period TV dramas and films, and local festivals celebrating the region’s samurai heritage.