|April 2 - 8, 2003|
I left Seattle on Tuesday, April 2 for Narita, Japan. After an uneventful 10 hour flight, I arrived safely at 4:30 PM on Wednesday (Japan is a whole day ahead of the PNW). I was met by Seya and Yukiko (pronouced U-kee-ko),
the lady he had brought as an interpreter. Havng been born and raised in Seattle, the weather in Narita was very familiar - RAIN! We immediately embarked on the two hour drive North to Naka Town in the district of Ibaraki (pronounced E-barakE) where Seya and his family live. I found the terrain in Japan much like the Pacific Northwest less the mountain ranges. The hillsides were green with pine and what appeared to be a variety of cedar tree. EVERY yard was manicured and all shrubs were "Bonsai". Most of the trip had lovely weather although a cold day or two. It has been a very cool and wet spring so many of the flowering trees, shrubs and flowers up North were not in bloom very much although daffodils and narcissus were in abundance.We stopped for dinner on the way home where I got to taste my first sushi and sashimi - raw fish. The difference: sushi is raw fish wrapped in rice and seaweed. Sashami is simply strips of raw fish. There were some other traditional dishes and, since I had been told to try many different foods, I tasted them all!|
The next morning, Seya-san picked me up at my hotel and took me back to the house where I saw Pookie for the first time since May of 2002. She knew the minute she heard my voice who had arrived! She was happy and in excellent condition.
After Yukiko arrived we headed out south to Mito City where we walked through the Kairakuen. It is known as one of the three best garden parks in Japan and offers a spectacular view of 3000 Ume (Japanese Apricot) trees which are normally in full bloom during the Ume Festival starting from late February. There are 100 varieties of Ume, however, due to the cool/wet spring most were just starting to bloom. The total area of the Main Park is about 32 acres. The total park extends over a very large area and includes a large lake where people ride around in paddle boats shaped like swans! In this park is also the Koubuntei which is a multi-level, traditional home of Japanese "royalty". This was an original and, although we were allowed to walk through the halls, we were not allowed in the individual rooms. There were placards describing each room, it's inhabitants and purpose. It was most interesting.
We ate a traditional Japanese lunch in Mito City where we sat on pillows. I learned to "slurp" noodles, cut pork steak with chopsticks and tried more "new" foods. Then we were off to Kasama where I tried my hand at making Japanese pottery. The production of Kasama started in the An'ei era of the Edo period following the introduction of Shigaraki pottery techniques. This local technology became popular and contributed to the region's pottery industries, leading to the creation of Mashiko pottery and establishing pottery as the key local industry of Kasama. Today, Kasama pottery is designated as "National Traditional Craft". Craft Hills Kasama is a symbol of the city's pottery producers and for the city itself. There are pottery workshops where visitors can readily experience pottery making from the hand-shaped clay to working on the potter's wheel. This is where I made my souvenier ashtray!
The next day (Friday) we spent visiting the Ryujin Great Suspension Bridge. With a length of 375 meters (1230.75 ft) and height of 100 meters (328.20 ft), this is Japan's longest suspension bridge solely for pedestrians. From the bridge there is a breathtaking view of the V-shapped Ryujin gorge cutting through more than 10 kilometers of unspoiled forest, offering beautiful seasonal views of the canyon. We were a bit early for the spring view but pictures available showed fabulous spring and fall scenes.
That evening we went back to Seya-san's home and groomed Pookie for the FCI Asia International Show on Saturday in Tokyo.
As Tokyo is a two hour drive south of Ibaraki, we had to leave at 5:30 AM to make the show site in time for an 8:30 AM judging. For those that know me well, you know I'm not a "morning person". This was very hard on me as I, additionally, had been fighting off a migraine headache. Therefore, I slept most of the way to Tokyo. Once there, however, the excitement of the show scene made me forget my headache! I met many people and renewed acquaintances with those that have accompanied Seya to our Nationals over the last several years. The show site was very much like any of our indoor sites with grooming set aside in a section and the show rings in another. Judging is a bit different as they go from puppy to Best of Breed in both sexes! So, you end up with TWO winners at the end of Breed judging, BOB Dog and BOB Bitch. They each go into their respective groups.
The Japan Kennel Club, the host organization for this event, is the only canine registration body for all breeds with the approval of the Japanese Government. They make various efforts to promote the spirit of love for animals and strengthen moral sentiments of the nation. They take the role of leader of the whole canine circle in Japan. Since it's establishment over 50 years ago, the Japan Kennel Club has made great contributions in this direction. This show, the biggest in Asia, continues to flourish more every year and has advanced the role of dogs in Japanese society. Dog fanciers and show organizers have worked very hard to make this show a success. The FCI Asia International show would be comparable to our Westminster KC Show or a National Specialty show. This years entry was 2,751 dogs, 108 of which were Pembroke Welsh Corgis - 52 males, 56 females. The show was impeccably organized.
None of the stewards spoke English so a lot of hand gestures made up their communications! At the beginning of each class, the dogs and handlers are brought into a holding area in catalog order. Judging proceeds as in America. After all the "regular" classes, a Winners Dog or Winners Bitch is picked. They then go into the Champions class (BOB class) for their sex where champions from ANY country compete. From that comes a BOB Dog AND Bitch and Awards of Merit as well as ribbons for "quality". As this was an FCI international show, CACIB's were awarded towards an FCI International Championship (takes 4). I was asked to fill in for a handler having a conflict and had my work cut out for me with a bitch that didn't know me, my language or my handling techniques! I learned quickly what "stand" and "stay" were in Japanese - tat'e and mat'e - pronounced tot-A and mot-A. As we were waiting in the holding area, some dog got tangled in the plastic chains and brought them and their supports down around us, scaring JudyAnn out of her wits. I managed to get enough control back for her to show relatively well but had a heck of a time getting ears! She was a very nice moving bitch with a pretty head, expression and good topline and I knew the judge liked her. Just as the last dog finished his turn, someone knocked over a chair and I lost JudyAnn completely. Inspite of her insecurity, I managed to get her to stack long enough to win Winners Bitch and an Excellent rating! I then had to go straight into a fast switch mode to get Pookie who was entered in the Champion Bitch class (since she is an American Champion) which consisted of 18 bitches. Pookie showed like a trooper, having not shown since last May, and won Best of Breed Bitch! We were all ecstatic! Seya took us and all his friends upstairs for a celebratory lunch where I experienced my first Saki, poured by one of the top three corgi handlers in all of Japan (whom I had beaten!). Man, that's some good stuff!
Groups went about 3:30 PM and are, again, a bit different than America. First you all go in and get your table exam in a holding area behind the actual group rings. After that, you go into the ring where the judge views the dogs standing and moving and picks his winners. Although we didn't get a placement, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi did. All in all, we had a great day and shopping was fantastic. For some reaon, many of the corgis, stuffed and otherwise, had BIG noses! They are very cute, much like the pictures you see where it looks like the dog has his nose right in the camera lens! We then had a very contented drive home.
Sunday was spent just relaxing around the Seya home with various family and friends visiting throughout the day. We enjoyed ice cream, candies and playing on the computer mixing pedigrees and checking out websites. Seya spent a lot of time sleeping "under" their dining table! The traditional dining table is only about 12"-18" high where they sit on pads. They had a coverlet attached all the way around so, here was Seya "laying" half under the table covered up to his neck, sleeping soundly! It was a pretty funny site. Miki, Seya's wife, took all of us to a "family style" restaurant much like Denny's (which was also over there along with Coco's and McDonalds)for dinner. After a week of traditional Japanese foods, I was ready for a good hamburger! I ended up with a hamburger patty, mashed spuds and carrots - good old, traditional American food! There were televisions throughout the restaurant as well as computer game screens on each table. This kept the children occupied while the adults visited.
Monday was "girls day out". Miki took myself, her daughter, Manami, and Yukiko (the interpreter)to Disney Resort in Tokyo. This is right next door to Disneyland and is a water theme park Disney World has constructed. We traveled to the "center of the earth" on a roller coaster, flew throught the eye of a tornado with lifelike rain and turbulance, ate various flavored popcorns (I like the cappuccino), ate lunch on an old, elegant American cruise steam ship, traveled through Indiana Jones Temple of Doom on another roller coaster, visited 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, saw Sinbad's world and shopped until we dropped. We then went over to the Sheridan Inn where they treated me to a "farewell dinner". I ate sushi, sashami, snails, tempura shrimp and sea eel, tofu made with green pease, seaweed and a dozen other things. There were about 15 items on the dinner they ordered for me! I washed it all down with Saki and got very good eating noodles with chopsticks!
I was amazed at the many different varieties of noodles made. One thing that was hard for me is....what we consider bad manners, they consider good manners. The more you slurp your food the more you are saying how good it is! Noodles are "sucked" up much like children do spagetti, rice is shoveled at mouth level and soup is drank rather than eaten with a spool. They do use traditional tools but chopsticks are the main utensil. Cutting pork steak with chopsticks is an art! Eating salad and kernels of corn required great concentration on my part!
Tuesday was my day to fly home. I was a bit melancholy as I had fallen totally in love with the Seya family. Miki is as sweet as they come and their daughter, Manami, who is 15 was adorable. Her youthful enthusiasm was contagious. I'm hoping she will get to come visit on her summer break, sometime mid-July through August, and do dog shows with me. I've invited her. She is taking English in school so I told her to study hard then come over to learn how English is really spoken!
Seya picked me up at my hotel an hour early so our interpreter didn't make it! I was horrified! I speak only the few words they taught me and he speaks only a word of two, here and there of English! This meant a two hour trip to the airport unable to communicate! I found we had developed a mutual fondness and respect for each other and the trip was not uncomfortable at all. He did make a detour and I began to wonder if he was trying to abscond with me! We went through small residential areas on one lane, two way roads (isn't THAT exciting with on-coming traffic!). We ended up at the home of one of his friends that breeds and shows Old English Sheepdogs. He went to lunch with us and, much to my delight, he spoke some English! We had a simple lunch, said our good-byes and left for the airport.
Once there, the dogs (Pookie and one of her Jafar pups) had to be taken to the Quarantine Office to have the Health Certificates verified and forms filled out. We then went up to check-in, breezed through that and went over to have a cup of coffee before saying our good-byes to each other. After reaching my gate, I found our plane was late due to a medical emergency leaving Seattle. They had detoured to Anchorage, Alaska before proceeding on to Narita. It arrived an hour late and we finally took off two hours late. Although we flew through some bumpy storms, the 8 hour trip to Seattle was pretty uneventful, but then I slept most the way! Rick had driven to Seattle to meet me and we spent Tuesday night at my folks. Here's the catcher - I left Narita at 5:30 PM Tuesday evening and arrived in Seattle at 9:20 AM Tuesday morning! I laughed and told my folks "Seya picked me up at 9:30 AM TOMORROW"!
We Americans could learn a few things from our Japanese neighbors. Their respect for their environment and each other is admirable. There was very little debris along the roads, family and friends are cherished and their DRIVING MANNERS! No one cuts anyone off, no one tailgates, they drive fast (Seya usually drove about 120 kmh - 75 mph - on the expressways but Miki drove 160 kmh - 99.4 mph!) I heard all of two sirens the whole week and saw reports of only two traffic accidents during rush hours.
This is a trip I will always remember and cherish. It was an opportunity to experience how others around the world live and to share Goodwill amongst our doggie peers.