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Japan: Arabian Horse Ranch
Images by John and Steph
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...Story - part 3

Everything was arranged for us. Yaguchi emailed us a full itinerary – each day and night was scheduled – from airport pickup on October 5 to delivery back at Narita airport on October 11. I had been so busy in the weeks before our trip that I only had time for a quick glance at the itinerary, but had full faith in Yaguchi. This was going to be a busy week, but how nice not to have to think about any of the logistics! After a week of managing our 5-day ride (and John had to leave suddenly on a business trip the first day of the ride, so it was double duty for me) I was so exhausted from managing all of the details of our ride that the idea of a ‘think free’ week in Japan was pure heaven. John and I met up again the morning of the flight (he having just flown back into Boise and me having been up most of the night finishing ride results and packing) said hello, staggered onto the plane, met up with Dinah and Yaguchi in San Francisco, boarded a jumbo 747 and headed East!

Our first hours in Japan were just the beginning of a most remarkable week. Yaguchi herded us out of Narita airport, into a company van, then on into Tokyo where we checked into a hotel, dropped off our bags, quick shower and then back into the van to go to a ‘special dinner’ with Seiichi and Harume Hasumi. Even Yaguchi was excited, he said ‘they’ve planned something very special’. It was dark now, and our driver wound through the narrow streets of an old part of Tokyo – still wet from the rain – past tiny shops and restaurants, traditional lights and decor, a very ‘hip’ part of the city. The driver let us out in front of a fairly plain looking building, we took a tiny little elevator up a few flights and were greeted by several beautiful and traditionally dressed women – Geishas! The Geisha tradition is still very strong in Japan, young women who are schooled for years in the arts – music, dancing, entertaining – and whose careers are a lifetime of sharing art and beauty and companionship. They were exquisitely dressed, traditional hair and makeup – elegant and graceful motion. The younger women had the white face paint and red lips, outlined eyes and ornately decorated hair. The older women were gentle and composed and graceful, but their faces were not painted.

We were escorted into the room where we would dine, and were greeted by Seiichi and Harumi Hasumi. I hadn’t seen them since the WEC in Dubai, and John hadn’t seen them since our FEI ride in Oreana, but we felt immediately comfortable, in the company of friends. The meal was extraordinary – course after course of exquisitely prepared items – flavorful and colorful and delicate – quite often we had to ask what it was that we were eating. And throughout the evening the Geishas sat with us, conversing, smiling, helping serve and providing wonderful company. Half way through dinner they entertained us – one of the older geishas played a haunting melody on the ‘shamisen’ (a 3 stringed instrument) and sang. The younger girls danced – gentle moves with subtle and graceful motions of the hands, opening and closing ornate fans, subtle turns of the head. It was a soft dance, the more they danced the more we started to notice and appreciate the intricacies of their movement. I’m pretty sure the words of the song told a story, and the movements of the dancers were part of the telling of the story, but even if we couldn’t understand the words, the sound and movement alone was extraordinary. After the performance the geishas joined us again for more food and conversation. I was fascinated by the instrument – it had no frets, three silk strings, and was plucked using a large ivory pick. The older woman offered me the instrument to try – a small cloth glove to help the string hand slide up and down the neck of the instrument, and the ivory pick. I felt very clumsy, but managed a few semi-melodic moments, and enjoyed the feel of the instrument. It was a lovely evening – a very special treat.

Next – a good night’s sleep and then travel to Kuraisawa and Hasumi’s Arabian Horse Ranch, site of the CEI*** Shining Moon 100 Mile Ride.

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