Doglsedding in Hokkaido

Our Plan B (Panakip Butas) activity turned out to be our best Hokkaido experience!

I had the day’s itinerary planned out but was informed that our main destination, the ropeway to Hokkaido’s tallest mountain located in Daisetsuzan National Park,  Mount Asahidake, might be closed. We would hire a car to take us on a six-hour roundtrip commute facing a 50% chance closure of our destination?! Eek!

On the 11th hour, I asked our ride provider, Sky Express’s Adam Shick via Triple Lights to recommend a backup activity; he found Moonlight Ladies dogsledding who said they couldn’t take us on our desired day, March 22, but they could take us in March 23. Adam agreed to change our booking date. (Thanks, Adam!)

Thankful for the small and big ways the Lord directs us to the best when our original plans don’t work out.

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you. Psalm 32:8 NLT

As it turns out, the ropeway would be closed on our desired day! And we came at just the right time window [#grace #blessing]. The last Facebook post of Moonlight Ladies cited their challenges of (1) uncertainty if the two newly-trained huskie leaders would be ready; and (2) warmer weather.

Our driver, Kimura-san, with English-speaking staff, Mori-san, picked us up on time from our hotel and brought us on our comfortable, spacious coaster (with free wifi).

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Kimura-san (left) and Mori-san (right)

The freeway entrance ramp was clogged due to a vehicular accident so we incurred an hour’s delay. Mori-san was able to contact Moonlight Ladies who agreed to take us two hours earlier as we revised our itinerary. (Just want to pause and appreciate how wonderful a service our Triple Lights team gave, being considerate to our needs for a rest or snack stop as well as itinerary changes)

REST STOP: If you are not used to an authentic rustic outhouse, you might prefer to have a restroom stop before you arrive here.

We arrive at noon with the dogs greeting us.

  1. CLOTHING. We get assessed for who needs waterproof clothing and boots; these are available for rent. If you are securing your own, only waterproof winter clothes (preferably colourful, not white, so that in case of accidents, you are easier to retrieve). Waterproof winter-weight: gloves and high-cut boots for -10C or colder. Preferably have snow goggles (for unimpaired vision) and balaclava and the like (to protect nose and lips).ABOUT DAN AND KYOKO. *DAN (who is Canadian) AND KYOKO (who is Japanese) are a husband-and-wife team who have 25 dogs. They have been dogsledding for about 17 years. The dogsleds they use were traditionally handcrafted by Dan which upgrades their flexibility “from a truck to a sports car.”
  2. INSTRUCTION ROOM: Dan lets us watch an instruction video in the heated instruction room. He says dogsledding is not complicated but you need to listen to the video instructions carefully. (If someone starts talking or looks away, Dan will stop the video!).
  3. WHO CAN RIDE: They have taken in riders who are kids, persons with handicap, and 80-year olds . They say it is not complicated but you need to listen to the video instructions carefully. (Refer to #3 :))
  4. HOW MANY CAN RIDE PER TRIP: . Up to 6 people can go on one run. One rider at a time splitting the 7km roundtrip trail, mostly flat but with many curves; 4 persons on the snowmobile cart who can take photos; 1 on the snowmobile as backrider.
  5. WEATHER
  6. “If today was warm and sunny, we would say, Sorry, you can’t go. What happens is… two hours in the sunshine and [the snow] becomes mush about this deep [6”] and the dogs are really slow. The five dogs [today] ran really fast. We [would] run seven dogs [in mush] and they’d only be half as fast. Or… if it’s get a little worse than that, we just don’t go.” -Dan

  7. Three weeks prior, my friend, Miss Lampa, said:  “Am not sure how impressive the remaining snow will be by the time you’re here; this year, the snow started melting early February instead of the usual mid-March.”   Kyoko-san said they thought they were done for the winter. The snow had melted. The farmers in these farmlands covered the ground with grey soil but on our arrival day, we were blessed with fresh falling powder snow and the right cool temperature. Thank You Lord!!!
  8. “For to the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth” – Job 37:6a

  9. THE DOGS. The gorgeous, smart, adorable huskies love to run in freezing weather!  They also love to roll or bury themselves in or eat the snow during rider change stops.BRAKES! How to apply (Not so abruptly) but needs to be full (both feet on). Less than 100% is not putting on the brakes. When to apply:  Some of these occasions : (a) Since the dogs are raring to go run, put on brakes [with both hands firmly on the sled] before starting until you get Dan’s hand signal. This will prevent you from getting dragged or the sled being pulled from under you; (b) when one of the dogs strays to the side; (c) when one of the dogs take a nature call; (d) when your sled is about to go down the curb; (d) when changing riders; (e) when the last rider returns to Moonlight Ladies… until every dog has been unhitched from the dogsled.
  10. OTHER REMINDERS:  (a) . Keep both hands on the dogsled handle at all times. Don’t wave to others (even if you see someone doing it on the video 😝;  (b) Apply sunscreen and lip balm; (c)  The cold misleads you into thinking you’re not thirsty. Remember to hydrate. (d) If you fall into the snow, it’s plain fun, not painful.

THE RIDE:
Bruser leads the pack of five huskies through the Hokkaido countryside where we get a breathtaking view of God’s awesome walk-thru artwork!

 

After the run, the dogs calmly line up for their frozen venison treats and we enjoy some bonding time.

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*THE NAME “Moonlight Ladies” is not from the lyrics of James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James.” When Dan started snowmobiling in Hokkaido farmlands some 17 years ago, before they built the trails, he used just the regular roads at night. In this farming community, there was practically no traffic after 9pm. The time to practice was when the moon lit the sky. Their first husky lead’s name was Lady. Kyoko invited her friends (who were ladies) so Dan was looking at all the ladies in the moonlight dogsledding.

*www.MOONLIGHTLADIES.info

Dear Lord, thank You for Your graces that led us to what Patrice calls “the best snow activity we experienced.”

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Photo/ Video Credits: Kyoko-san, The Uytengsu Beauties: Daia, Patrice, Cristy, Hannah, Thiza; and the beloved.

 

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