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Picture the scene: the freezing cold territory of the north. In a harsh climate stripped of all waste, this is a place where animals live alongside people.
What kind of relationships are born here? To find out, I went to visit the wolves that famously accompanied Naomi Uemura and his team of Arctic explorers, and their “musher” (sled-puller) in Hokkaido.
In the depths of winter, the temperature can drop below -20C in Shirataki, Engaru town in Hokkaido. Here lives a 42-strong pack of wolf dogs, most of which are Alaskan Huskies. They are managed by the company Outrider, which runs sled dog tours.
Company president and kayak maker Hidetaka Murabayashi, 55, first came across sled dogs when he was making a sled for a client. “I first became interested in Siberian Huskies. They were nimble-footed creatures.”
The turning point came when he adopted two Alaskan Huskies who had successfully crossed Antarctica with the explorer Keizo Funatsu. They had retired from front line duties, but with racing experience in Alaska they were somewhat different from other species.
“I realized dogs need a trainer, just like a sandlot baseball team needs a team manager.” Assigning one dog to lead the pack, they soon started to run in unison.
Written by Japan ForwardThe continuation of this article can be read on the "Japan Forward" site.
Hokkaido Sled Dogs Build Trust with Their Snow Tracks
Author: Inui Emori, Photojournalist