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Japan: The Trails
Images by John and Steph
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...Story part 6
Japan's Royal Lineage began with Jimmu, who was Japan's first Emperor (660 to 585 BC), and who was (according to Japanese Mythology) a descendant of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. The reigning Emperor, Akahito is the 125th Emperor. Princess Kiko just gave birth to a baby boy and the infant is now third in line to the Japanese throne after Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Kiko's husband, Prince Akishino. This was a widely celebrated event due to the fact that unless Princess Kiko (age 39) and Prince Akashino produced a male heir to the thrown, the government would have to revise the Imperial Laws which state that only a male can inherit the Royal Throne. So with the birth of the baby boy, the country has quieted down, for now.

How is this related to Endurance? Well Princess Kiko's brother, the tiny Royal baby's uncle, is an Endurance Vet! Schu Kawashima, DVM, PhD paid a visit to the Arabian Horse Ranch during the afternoon of our first day of riding. He is very busy with his job at Tokyo University, but also very interested in promoting Endurance in Japan, and wanted to come meet the Americans who came to support Hasumi san's efforts. Schu has traveled to several venues around the world, learning more about the sport, and becoming more interested. We felt very flattered that he would come all the way out to Karuisawa just to meet us, and Hasumi was also obviously pleased. A very nice man, and perhaps we'll see him again in June as a vet for the Shining Moon 100 Mile Ride!

The ranch had two other important visitors - Tanaka Masafumi- Vice Chair of the Japan Equestrian Federation (JEF) Endurance Committee, and Toshiaki Hosono - International Affairs for JEF. Tanaka has been very involved in Endurance, participating locally and Internationally, and a strong promoter and support of the sport. Hosono is also interested in promoting FEI Endurance, his main discipline is Eventing - his son represented Japan at the Atlanta Olympics in Eventing. Both of these men also took the long trip into the country to meet us and to see the venue that Hasumi has built. Much interest in the sport, and in the jump to the FEI discipline of Endurance.

Schu had to return to Tokyo - a very short visit - but the rest of us spent the evening together. After hot soaks in the Japanese baths, we met for traditional Japanese dinner. Course after course of delightful foods. It seems easy to eat a lot - nothing is heavy or greasy (though sometimes it's disturbingly unrecognizable) and the flavors are generally light and subtle.

The next morning we were up and at it again, breakfast with Dinah and John and Yaguchi, and off to the Ranch. I hadn't been feeling well since yesterday afternoon, maybe a flu or something, so decided not to ride - though very disappointed since this was to be the day to ride over the mountain. I didn't feel quite as bad though when I saw how happy Hasumi's trainer was to be going out on the trail on the 4th horse! I was quite content to go out with the vehicles - Tanaka and Hosono drove their little truck, and I rode along with Hasumi's employee Sazuki san - the man in charge of landscaping, developing the trail, etc. A very capable and enthusiastic man - full of laughter and energy. He drove a little Toyota 4wd van, his daughter rode shotgun, and I sat in the back jumping out to take pictures when I could. We followed the riders, led the riders, intersected the riders, keeping track of their progress and evaluating the trail as well. We met that at an old crossroad, as they came down off of the mountain, off the "Ten Thousand Horse Pass" of Nakasendo Road, where many many years ago an Edo era Shogun brought ten thousand horses over the pass from Kyoto to Tokyo.

One more session with maps and papers, drafting the FEI schedule for the CEI***,one more session walking around the location for the 'Endurance Village' and we pretty much accomplished the primary goal of our trip. We grew very fond of these people, so kind and gracious, dedicated and smart! And a wonderful sense of humor and humility. Every one of Hasumi's staff had the same quick smile and polite demeanor, between Hasumi and his amazing wife Harumi I can see how they built such a successful business. We had one more evening together. This time we went to a local family restaurant in Kitakaruisawa and several of Hasumi's staff joined us - informal and friendly, more delicious Japenese food. More beer and sake and sochu (spirits made from sweet potato), more talk and laughter.

The next morning we said goodbye to Hasumis and headed back to Tokyo. We were to have a couple days to be tourists, staying at a traditional Riokan (Japanese Inn) in the heart of Tokyo, near the Asakusa Temple. Tiny little Inn, totally Japanese with tatami mat floors, rice paper windows, low ceilings, slippers (no shoes allowed), yukatas (cotton kimono style robes), traditional breakfast and dinner sitting on cushions at a low table, hot baths in the steamy bath houses. We spent our first evening touring the Asakusa Temple (Buddhist) - it was a holiday, lots of worshipers, lots of tourists, lots and lots of people! A touristy area we spent hours walking through the temple complex with all of the tourist shops. Fun.

The last day in Japan Yaguchi took us to meet with the Japan Equestrian Federation. Tanaka and Hosono were there to greet us, and we also met Watanabe Hiroshi the JEF Managing Director, and Satomi Asaeda, International Affairs liason. Yaguchi described the proposed CEI***, the course, the venue, Hasumi's plans for invitations and entries. He introduced us, we spoke of our own involvement in the sport. The JEF is very receptive, eager to take on administration of another FEI discipline. After the meeting we watched a video that Tanaka had produced on another horse sport popular in Japan 'Mounted Archery'. Contestants took off galloping on their horses (one of the native breeds) while shooting arrows at targets as they zoomed by, quickly drawing an arrow and firing it off. Looked like fun, I think Dinah is going to practice this winter!

We spent the rest of the day being tourists with Yaguchi, he took us to dinner at a centuries old 'noodle restuarant' - a tiny place that has been serving Japanese noodles, probably the same menues, for over 200 years. It was nice and simple, a bit of a relief from the multi course dinners we'd been having. Another night on futons over tatami mats, liesurely breakfast, a chance to spend some time at the Inn's lone computer with Internet (ok, not entirely traditional), Dinah and I called in to a USEF conference call, using a semi effetive Internet phone system (we could listen, but not speak - most frustrating!), and then off to Narita Airport for our return to the states. John hopped the next plane to Portland for business, Dinah scurried home to pack and leave for a ride the next day, and I headed back to Oreana to start pulling ribbons and cleaning up after the 5-day Canyonlands ride! Never a dull moment.

A fantastic trip. We'll be going back next June to see Hasumi's dream become reality with his CEI*** Shining Moon 100 Mile Endurance Ride!

Steph

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