Friday, October 28, 2016

Postcard from Japan: Sunday, October 23, 2016

Today we visit the horses!  Tomoko-san owns two horses that she rides each weekend at a horse-back riding club.   She lives in Ashiya-shi which is a fairly large city near the coast (now famous, my mother-in-law tells me, for its millionaires).   The club and stables are about a 2-hour drive north into the mountains.

Tomoko's yellow speed demon.
My friend has a yellow car and drives really fast.  The speed limit on the highway is 80 kilometers per hour.  At one point she was driving 140.... It wasn't scary since she's a good driver and doesn't zoom back and forth from lane to lane, but I asked her about the speed limit.  She said that if she sees a police car (I haven't seen one once and I've been in a lot of cars this trip), she goes back down to 80.

In doing the conversion from kilometers to miles/hour, one mile equals .62137 kilometers, so 80 is just over 49 mph.  No wonder she wants to go faster (and so was everyone else).

We stop at a rest stop to buy lunch since the club doesn't have any food or beverages available on site.  Packaged ready-to-eat food is called Obento.  Long ago when I was a student (1971-72), at train stops, we'd jump out onto the station platform and buy an Obento that was packaged in a ceramic bowl with a wood lid.  Now with the age of plastic, it has a see-through lid and there are many to choose from, mostly hot and ready to eat.

We can also see Lake Biwa from the scenic overview.  Biwa-ko is the largest lake in Japan and sits in between the mountain range we often call the Japanese Alps.

Tomoko-san's horses are cared for during the week by the club's grooms, some very nice sweet-natured men who I get to meet.  The club is very busy today as it's Sunday.  There are about 50 or so horses stabled here.  The area includes a club house (where I sit while catching up on typing blog posts), the stable of horses, the building where the horses are washed and brushed down, a small storage area in which people keep their gear and take showers, and the practice riding area.

Lollipop is Tomoko-san's oldest horse at 27 years old.  Purple Cobra is the youngest at 15.

The horse, Lollipop.
The horse, Purple Cobra.
Iseto is the name of the dessert shop.  For those of you in
the Michigan League of Handweavers, I used my
conference bag from 2015 as my carry-on all purse bag
and it has proved to be the perfect bag!  So here's
MLH in Japan!
Tomoko-san is practicing for a riding competition so, after washing and brushing each horse, she spends time riding each one, especially practicing for the competition on Purple Cobra.  The big event of the day for the horses is getting to eat carrots!  When I first arrived at her house and we went out grocery shopping, we stopped at her local little vegetable store where the owner brought out a big bag of carrots she had ordered.  (She says she doesn't tell him they're for horses....)  Japanese carrots are short and wide compared to America's long thin carrots.  I don't think her two horses would care as they gobble them up. The neighboring horses are pawing the ground with their hooves, asking for carrots, too.  Fortunately there are some left over and Tomoko-san goes around giving everyone a carrot.

Traditional Japanese Okashi molds
So the horses get carrots and we get to go for dessert.  Tomoko-san has been treating me daily to wonderful lunches and dinners, all out at restaurants, since I get the feeling she does not cook.  (Also, she knows all the restaurants, especially the really excellent ones, so I assume she regularly eats out.) I told her I want to treat her to dessert at a dessert coffee shop.  I am very fortunate that she loves desserts just as much as I do, although it doesn't show on her as it does on me.  She's my height (and age) but very thin.

She already knows an excellent shop.  After we finish thoroughly enjoying cake and coffee (for her) and tea, I realize that I didn't take a picture.  We laugh at the fact that eating it was so much more important than showing anyone how gorgeous it looked.

As we leave, there's a huge display of wood carved molds.  Obviously, since it's a dessert shop they're for some kind of sweets probably the traditional Japanese Okashi, but neither Tomoko-san or my mother-in-law know exactly what they are.  But the delicacy of the carving and the detail is extraordinary.

Tomoko-san decides to take the slow route home and avoid some of the highway tolls.  So we get to see an beautiful sunset and the car lights of the highway.

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