Kohei Yamakawa sets off on the first known attempt to ride the length of Japan
(Kohei is seen with his mentor, Hideyo Tsutsumi, the first Japanese Member of the Long Riders’ Guild. Because of the historical importance of the journey, Kohei has been granted the honour of carrying the LRG flag.)
There have only been a few equestrian travellers in Japan during the last fifty years and there is no record of any Long Rider, past or present, journeying across the entire nation.
Kohei Yamakawa, a 23-year-old veterinarian student swung into the saddle on August 30th, 2014. His goal is to ride 3,000 kilometres (1800 miles) from Wakkanai in the northern end of the country to Okinawa Island in the far south.
|This map shows the route Kohei will take on the journey which is expected to last at least six months.|
Honouring Japan’s Greatest Long Rider
Even though no one may have ridden across Japan, one of the greatest Long Riders of all time came from that country. In 1892 Baron Yasumasa Fukushima made an astonishing 14,500 kilometres (9,000 mile) ride from Berlin, Germany to Tokyo. Upon his arrival in Japan, the Emperor hailed Fukushima as a hero, and adopted his three horses in the name of the Japanese nation. The ragged clothes of the Long Rider, and his whip, were put in a temple where they are still venerated.
This image depicts the legendary Long Rider, Baron Fukushima, during his winter-time crossing of Siberia.
In keeping with Long Rider tradition, Kohei is honouring Japan’s greatest Historical Long Rider. The young traveller plans to visit the city of Matsumoto, where many of Baron Fukushima’s artefacts have been preserved in the city museum, and to meet the descendants of Japan’s most famous equestrian traveller.
Long Rider Mentors
Prior to his departure, Kohei received encouragement and instructions from two specially qualified mentors, Hideyo Tsutsumi and Ian Robinson.
In 1971 Hideyo Tsutsumi made a round trip journey in Japan. Based upon that journey, the Guild welcomed Hideyo as its first Japanese Member.
A life long horseman, in 2013 Hideyo gave a lecture about his journey to a university riding club. Among the audience was Kohei Yamakawa. The young horseman became so inspired by Hideyo’s journey that he began plans to make the first known equestrian journey to travel the length of Japan.
New Zealand Long Rider Ian Robinson, who made solo rides in Tibet, Mongolia and Afghanistan, and now resides in Japan, is also acting as a mentor for this historic ride.
Both Hideyo and Kohei chose to ride Hokkaido horses, a hardy native breed from the north of Japan. These horses were used for hundreds of years by travellers and farmers. But lately their diminishing numbers have become of national concern. To highlight the need to save Japan’s native horse, Kohei chose two Hokkaido geldings to accompany him on the journey. http://hwasyuba.web.fc2.com/Englishpage.html
Michi Yanagi (Road Willow) and Michi Yuki (Road Snow) are full brothers.
Long Rider Sponsors
Even though Kohei knew how to ride, he faced a major technical problem. Japan had lost its collective knowledge on how to pack a horse or what equipment to use. The Long Riders’ Guild endorses the remarkable adjustable pack saddle made by the Canadian company, Custom Pack Rigging. This pack saddle has been successfully used by Long Riders on every continent except Antarctica.
Kelly de Strake, the company owner, had previously donated two pack saddles to the Guild. One is stationed in the Americas. It was used during Filipe Leite’s 10,000 mile ride from Canada to Brazil. A second donated pack saddle is available for service in Europe. Kelly donated a third pack saddle, which will be headquartered in Asia. Kohei’s journey marks the first time that this pack saddle has set off on a journey.
|Michi Yuki (Road Snow) is shown with the first adjustable pack saddle seen in Japan.|
Even though the pack saddle had been donated, the cost of shipping the equipment to Japan was very expensive. The shipping was paid for thanks to the generosity of Senior Long Riders from around the world. These included Founding Member of the Guild Robin Hanbury-Tenison, who made five equestrian journeys in various parts of the world, Founding Member of the Guild Günter Wamser, who rode 20,000 miles from Patagonia to Alaska, French Long Rider Louis Meunier, who rode across Afghanistan, Canadian Long Rider Bonnie Folkins, who rode across Kazakhstan, Australian Long Rider Tim Cope who rode from Mongolia to Hungary and Swiss Long Rider Peter van der Gugten who sponsors the annual Tschiffely Trail Ride.
In addition, two special Friends of the Guild, equestrian author Dick La Tondre and equestrian inventor, Robert Ferrand, also made donations to help cover the shipping costs.
Covering the Ride Across Japan
Kohei set off from the Hokkaido University Equestrian Riding Club. In attendance were reporters from national television and newspapers. Of special interest was the local high school film crew. Having learned of Kohei’s project, they have decided to create a documentary film about the journey, which they will later submit to the National High School Film Festival.
|Kohei (centre) with members of the high school film crew that plans to document his ride across Japan.|
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