Treatment of Mount Fuji horses and WWII mea culpas: readers' responses

Some readers’ responses to recent Community page articles:

Treatment of horses appalling

Re: “Tourist disturbed by treatment of horses on Mount Fuji courses” by Louise George Kittaka:

It would appear from the photos provided that these horses are underfed and underweight, not “gaunt.”

All horses — even elderly horses — should have a good healthy, shiny coat. The provision of water while they are working is a must. Foreign tourists will be more concerned with the horses’ welfare and would not consider a water trough unsightly but a necessity.

Of course, if people are really concerned about the condition of the horses there, don’t use them to ride up the steep slope but walk.


I am an equestrian and adore riding with all my heart. What this reader saw at Mount Fuji is not uncommon in Japan.

When I moved to Mie Prefecture last year, the shrine near my house had a festival wherein the horses would race up a very steep hill, sometimes to the point where they would fall backwards. They would be beaten, harassed, and prodded into doing this in a display which I found reprehensible.

This is, however, not my country. Even though I find it to be terribly abusive, I cannot impose my cultural values on others. Also, there is no SPCA here to complain to.

In a nearby park, there was a recreational race track which I would bike past and stop at. On the weekends there would be races. The track they were using was old and worn, not good for the horse as there was no attempt at patching. The horses themselves were not adequately watered and the vast majority would have a near-unacceptable fat score. I stood around for a few hours with the horses because I love them and to do my best to figure out what conditions they were cared with so I would not be making any hasty assumptions.

They were fed beer instead of water. (I understand this is a cultural practice and only object that water was not also offered.) Many of the horses were standing around uncared for after their race with matted coats and sweat spots. This was what I objected to most. The first thing any equestrian should learn is that the horse comes before the rider. After you ride you groom them thoroughly, pick their feet and cool them down.

So, what am I trying to say? The largest issue at hand is the low fat scores of these horses, as they are an indicator of overarching neglect when applied to a Westerner’s perspective. When you go to a riding school as opposed to seeing horses owned by random people, they are in much better condition.

I hope that in the future Japanese people will come around to a more Western understanding of horses and their care but, until then, I will respectfully abstain for supporting the Japanese horse industry in any way, sharp, or form.

To understand fat scoring and why it is important, please see this video: www.bit.ly/fatscoring.


Hypocrites over WWII

Re: “Forget Germany — Japan must deal with WWII its own way” by Nicolas Gattig:

Why do we in the Western world continue hammering on Japan to “express remorse” contritely about her behavior during the era of expansionism? Why do we want more than our many-times-already-yanked pound of flesh, particularly when we victors are so dirtied all the way up to our necks? Do we really think that the genocide committed particularly in devastating Tokyo and other Japanese cities, and the effects of two atomic bombs, was not punishment enough?

We in the West have to admit that we aren’t as innocent as we believe we are, because we had and used more formidable weapons. Real history is unpalatable history, not interpretive versions by the winners of wars, and in our case, our historical tale doesn’t smell sweet at all. Here we are, 70 years from the end of World War II, with the same cultural misunderstandings that helped launch the original conflict.

Japan’s cultural ways of apologizing are as valid as our own. Instead of demanding mea culpas Western-style, we should take a look at the behavior of the current multicultural astronauts out in space, and learn to accommodate each other in the same way they do. Perhaps that will put a stop to the culture of war.

Winner or loser, armed or not, war is hell. Maybe compassion will prove to be a better way to deal with conflict.

La Puente, California

Comments: community@japantimes.co.uk

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