《Hokkaido: the migrants’ choice – from Niseko》⑫ Former nurse creates dream horse riding club

April 16
Uno playing with her beloved horses at the riding club in Kyogoku

 Kyogoku is known as a spring water town. But last summer, during the Coronavirus pandemic, a small horse-riding club, ‘HORSE BACK COUNTRY’ opened there. Owner Uno Atsuko (45) is originally from Tottori prefecture but operates the club alone in a town with which she had no connections.

After graduating from high school, Uno acquired her nursing qualifications and worked in a hospital in Tokyo. It was a harsh working environment in which life and death intertwined. After sensing she was tired and wanted to take a break, a colleague invited her to visit a riding club in Tokyo.

When she sat on the horse’s back, Uno’s line of sight became much higher and she could see a different world. She also found the cuteness of the horses appealing. Ever since then she rode horses on her days off.

At the age of 31, Uno visited Hokkaido to ride horses, and was scouted by someone who wanted to start a new riding club. But she could not live on the earnings from a riding club alone and returned to Tokyo in winter to continue working as a nurse.
“Gradually, I was able to communicate with the horses and it was fun.” Her favorite horse even participated in the world championships in the USA.

However, after about 10 years, her relationship with the owner with whom she had helped nurture the club, became soured. She lost her job and was no longer allowed to come into contact with the horses she had reared with loving care.
Worried about Uno as her disappointment continued in Tokyo, a regular customer at the club at which she worked reached out to her. “You don’t have anywhere to return? In that case, why don’t you create a place of your own?” Those words gave Uno the direction she needed.

She searched for suitable land in Hokkaido and encountered a mountain that resembled Mt. Fuji – it was Mt. Yotei. “This was the place I had envisioned.”
Uno visited the local government offices in the town and villages at the foot of Mt. Yotei. Representatives of Kyogoku Town listened enthusiastically to the eccentric visitor who wanted to open a horse-riding club, and she was told there was some unused land owned by an elderly farmer.

 That summer, Uno relocated to Kyogoku and began preparations for opening while working as a nurse at a hospital in the town. One year later, she acquired approximately 8 hectares of land from the farmer. In order to raise her first 5 horses efficiently, she allowed them to graze openly on the farm, which reduced the labor involved in cleaning out the stables.
Surrounding farmers also supplied her with grass to feed the horses, and helped with snow clearing work. In the summer of 2020, preparations to open the riding club were complete. Former regular customers spread the word and came to ride the horses.

 Right now, Uno has a smile on her face. “I found a place where I can be calm and follow my dreams.” She is enjoying her life with horses at the foot of Mt. Yotei. Here, close to the Niseko region, Uno continues to work with horses today, in order to be able to offer new impressions and excitement to people from throughout Japan and beyond.

Mt. Yotei, where the snow is about to thaw. The majestic mountain is the driving force that attracts many settlers to the Niseko region. (April 2, 2021.)