Real Western > Rodeo > Japanese Rodeo Cowboys > Jin'ichiro Shibahara

Chasing The Dream

Written by Jin'ichiro Shibahara

June 18, 2007 - Back to Japan

The mountains of the Boso Peninsula were a world of green.  With varying shades of green, rich in darks and lights, I could smell the freshness of it with each hot, humid wind.  "It's great to be back in Japan" I could not help but mumble.

Well, I returned just the other day.

I spent 13 hours, just about a full day on the 13th in my Prelude, driving the 800 miles from Fresno to Salt Lake.  Instead of the northern route via Sacramento, I opted instead to take the southern route through Bakersfield and Las Vegas.  The cruise-control was busted and of no assistance, so, though I knew I was asking a lot of my injured right leg, with so much to do before I returned and no time to waste, I kept it on the peddle.

I flew to Narita from Salt Lake with a stopover in San Francisco, and during that flight, I had the opportunity to speak with an elderly lady by the name of Miyauchi.  Our conversation eventually turned to the manner in which the physically impaired are treated at American airports and other public institutions.  Perhaps it was because I boarded with a black cast boot on and was on crutches too, but as soon as I had finished checking in at the Salt Lake Airport, an airport staff member was there with a wheelchair, I was given priority past the long line at security and taken all the way to my boarding gate.  Even at San Francisco I had a number of the airport ask me if I wanted a ride or needed help.  I turned them all down because I felt like walking, even on crutches, but I appreciated their kindness.  Ms. Miyauchi said she had a relative who is confined to a wheelchair and who was extremely touched by the kindness they received when they visited the United States.  She also said that such kindness is an everyday occurrence in the U.S.  I replied that I felt the same, but asked "what about in Japan?"  She replied that it was practically unheard of.  At this point I had no idea of what awaited me when I reached Narita, so I simply replied that "It seems Japan is well behind in that regard."

The plane finally touched down in Narita.  In the hallway leading from the plane to the lobby walked a woman and a man with a wheelchair heading towards me.  There were several passengers on the plane who legitimately required wheelchairs, so I assumed it was for one of them and was about to walk past the two of them when the woman flashed a card towards me that had my name on it and asked "Are you Mr. Shibahara?"  Apparently、 San Francisco had notified them of me and they were there waiting for me.  With me in the wheelchair, we entered the terminal from the gate and walked past the long lines waiting to get through immigration and customs without a second glance into the special inspection area for airline crews at the side.  After a procedure that took less than two minutes we picked-up my suitcases and headed out the arrival gate.  A few things occurred after this which caused us to have to wonder around the airport, but the two of them stayed with me all the way to the train station ticket stalls.  I was even further surprised when a wheelchair was there at the stalls waiting for me, courtesy of Japan Railway (JR), to transport me from the ticket stalls to the platform.  They had even called ahead to Chiba Station where I had to change trains, to ensure someone was there to help me.

It goes without saying that I was deeply moved, but at the same time I was ashamed of myself as well.  Now that I think about it, I had seen station workers helping passengers in wheelchairs board and disembark trains at stations in Tokyo on several occasions.  As I experienced that assistance first hand, I recalled the words I had spoken to Ms. Miyauchi earlier, and deeply regretted my comments that Japan was behind.  I have never been to Kansai International Airport or the new Chubu International Airport so I can't say for sure, but I am absolutely sure that there are people at Narita, dedicated to assisting those who have special needs.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who assisted me at Narita Airport, and those from Japan Railway.  I am in your debt.

The following day, I got my right leg checked-out at Kameda General Hospital in Kamogawa City of Chiba Prefecture.  This was the same hospital where I had the operation on my face done, and I always use this hospital when I'm in Japan.  Once again I was to be greatly surprised by what the doctor had to tell me after I had given him the X-rays I took in California, and told him what the doctor there had told me.  He felt around
the area thought to be broke for a while, then said, "your legs not broke."  Again, all I could say was, "What?!"

While I sat astounded, he continued, "You probably had a stress fracture and didn't even know it, and it must have healed before you knew it too.  If you had broken the leg on 29 April, there's no way it could have reattached so quickly, and while it may have been three weeks, it would probably hurt so much that, cast or not, you couldn't stand up, much less walk.  You can stand-up can't you?"

"Yes.  Somewhat."

"Your fibula is a bit bent, but it's not broke.  You just strained some muscles when the bull stepped on you;" then, pointing at the area on the back of my knee where the bull's foot print was still visible, and at my ankle, he added, "it hurts here and here, doesn't it?"

That would explain why I couldn't straighten my leg…  But it's not broke.  The conversation I had with that X-ray technician in Fresno kept running through my head…

"You can take the boot off now; you don't need it.  Take some long baths, warm the muscles up and soften them, stretch and massage them.  You should be back on your feet in about three weeks.  You can start training again after you're able to walk."

Stress fracture…  The nurse said that athletes get them when they concentrate a high level of training in a short period of time.  I recalled the training I did last year with my personal trainer; I remember my right leg hurt so bad I couldn't stand at work after training one day.  It never occurred to me that my leg might be broke, so I just kept on training and never even went to the hospital.

Well, that was it for my visit to the hospital.  I came out feeling a little better than when I went in.I'll be in Japan a while this time.  Of course, it all depends on my recovery, but I hope to be back in Utah around the beginning of July, or before August at the latest.  Doc says my injuries heal fast for a 36 year old.  Of course, I can't deny that my recovery is no where near that of an 18 or 20 year old.  It's going to take time to recover the muscle strength I've lost, and to increase muscle mass also.  However, a "concentrated, hard training regimen" will only land me in the same place I was, so I'll have to talk with my personal trainer and adjust my training a bit.  But, I guess the first thing I need to do is get to the point where I can walk again…

Jin'ichiro Shibahara


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