February 11, 13 | Takako Chiba
Have you ever wanted to try dog sledding? It's an experience that let's you free your mind while connecting with your canine team as you speed across a pure white winter landscape.
Well, if you visit the town of Takasu, in Kamikawa-gun, you'll be able to make use of wide open fields of the area to give it a try with the wonderful dog sledding team at "Moonlight Ladies." Takasu Town is located just a 25 minute drive north from the JR Asahikawa Station.
I asked representative Mrs. Murakami if anyone could try their hand at the dog sledding experience.
"Any visitors to the park will be able to experience the joy of dog sledding. The dogs we've chosen love to run and their personalities make them the perfect companions for all newcomers. In this wide, pure white field of snow the dogs and the riders become one as they speed across the land."
▲ For me, dog sledding brings up images of the movie "South Pole Story." Have any of our readers ever seen that film?
Most visitors to "Moonlight Ladies" are first time dogsledders.
Mrs. Murakami explained "Although it may look like a difficult activity, there are really only three things you need to remember. I think if you keep that in mind then anyone can ride. It's important to remember that, while the dogs can stop by themselves, the rider (or "musher") must command the dogs to slow down to a stop. Really the musher works with the dogs to decide on a speed, meaning he can command them to speed up, slow down, or stop at any time."
"Another important thing the musher will have to do is to help the dogs climb hills by kicking (like riding a skateboard) or other means. Doing so helps the dogs out, and protects the team. Lastly, the musher needs to remember that caring for the dogs is the most important aspect of dog sledding. If he does all these things than the ride will be easy!"
Mrs. Murakami first began dog sledding in 1999 after inheriting a large husky. Around the same time she happened to meet an experienced dog sledder who told her "if you're raising a husky you should give dog sledding a try!"
"Moonlight Ladies" began offering dog sledding for beginners in 2004. At first only 40 or 50 people came out to give it a try, but as the years have gone by the numbers have grown. Currently they are providing the experience to around 200 people per season.
There are many visitors from abroad, coming from Singapore, Taiwan, and many other locations. Mrs. Murakami's husband is Canadian, so for those that only speak English you won't have any trouble understanding instructions!
The dog team features a variety of personalities. They vary in age, gender, and experience giving each of them a unique style. The team was created with the best balance in mind and the one trait they all share is their excitement for running.
"There are some members that have a powerful and energetic spirit, some are more subdued but extremely friendly dogs, and there are some male dogs that just have no luck with the ladies. All kinds of personalities make up the team, and I think visitors are often surprised that so many kinds of dogs can work together. Part of the joy of the experience is getting to know your team, and the beautiful Hokkaido winter landscape is the perfect place to do it." says Mrs. Murakami.
▲ Why the name "Moonlight Ladies" you ask? Mrs. Murakami explains "At first the entire team was female, both the dogs and I, and we used to practice at nighttime. We would usually run under the light of the moon, hence the name!"
To try out dog sledding with the "Moonlight Ladies" team you'll need to make a reservation. If you check out the homepage below (in Japanese) you can see on their calendar what days are open for appointment. For those inside Hokkaido, and those who are visiting from abroad, why not give dog sledding a try this winter?
■ Moonlight Ladies on facebook:
Location: 19-16-1 Takasu Town, Kamikawa-gun
● For more information and booking:
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Takako Chiba)
(Photographs provided by Moonlight Ladies)