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

Chasing The Dream

Written by Jin'ichiro Shibahara

2008 season

Jun 28, 2008 – Lehi, UT: Facing Fears
Lehi Roundup (PRCA)

After arriving at the airport in Salt Lake, I grabbed the bags I had checked, and walked out of the airport. I had taken but two steps before blurting out, “Damn it’s hot!” Tokyo doesn’t even compare. I had about an hour before my ‘family’ over here got off work and came to pick me up, so I sat on a bench outside and took a break. All around me, family members, lovers and friends were savoring the joy of reunion by hugging, kissing and smiling at one another.

My family finally arrived just after five. As we drove home, I noticed the neon temperature gage was showing 99°F. A little over 37° in the Celsius system the Japanese use. And it wasn’t even 6 in the evening yet. Being that it was only the end of June yet, I was more than a little surprised, but I guess this too is an effect of global warming…maybe. The average temperature in Salt Lake around this time is 82° F (27°C).

The wild fires in California from lightning, flooding of the Mississippi in Illinois and Missouri and the damage to crops its causing and the rising costs of production as a result of that are all things that directly or indirectly affect Japan, so I don’t think we can afford to ignore what goes on with the weather in the United States.

The day after I arrived I was still jet lagged and spent the day in bed. I had spent the week before returning on a night time schedule in an attempt to adjust my body to US time, but the jet lag still got me. Another day of rest after that, and the next day was show time. Lehi is a town about 40 minutes from here and the show starts at eight in the evening. You might think that’s an awful late time to be starting a rodeo, but when you take into account the temperatures I mentioned earlier,! you rea lized eight is about when things start to cool down; even if the sun is still up at this time too.

I arrived just after six and walked around a bit. As I walked out of the office where I paid my $140 entry fee, someone called me from behind. I turned around to see it was Louie Jones, one of the bullfighters that day, and my best friend. I had spoken to him on the phone the day I arrived back in Salt Lake, but I hadn’t seen him since May. He would be fighting this day with the Aussie, Darrell Diefenbach. It’d been a few years since I’d seen Darrell too. When we first knew each other, we would share motel rooms and such, but he has risen since then to become one of the leading bullfighters in the PRCA, selected to fight at the NFR a number of times.

Walking back behind the chutes, I dropped off my gear and went to take a look at my bull. I had drawn W282 Salt Water of the Flying U Rodeo Company string. Blackish hide with an impressive set of horns, but physically he wasn’t all that big. I spoke with one of the guys from Flying U and he told me the bull usually comes out to turning to the left and goes into a left hand spin. What we in rodeo call an “into my hand” kind of bull, but also the type of bull I was never able to get ridden in practice.

The rodeo kicked off with the opening ceremony as usual. Lehi was packed that day. It helped that it was Saturday and everyone had the next day off, but school being out for the summer probably helped too. The roundup featured a wild horse race and motocross show in addition to the usual eight events, and even featured freestyle bullfighting at the end. It was understandable why the locals said, “Lehi is a good rodeo.”

I had quite a bit of time on my hands before I was up. If I said that I experienced no doubt or fear while I waited, I would be lying. There was no changing the fact that I had been knocked out twice in a row prior to this bull. It had been three months since I last mounted a! bull, b ut having to return to Japan for injuries and such fairly often, I was used quickly getting myself back into position to ride after a laps. No, what was bothering me was the fact that I can’t even remember my last two rides and a nagging fear that maybe I would be bucked off in just a few seconds and be knocked unconscious, unable to remember even the things I was thinking now. But the time I had was more than enough for me to confront and overcome that fear. By the time I climbed down into the chute, heated up my rope and wrapped my left hand, any fears I had were gone, and when I nodded for the gate, the only thing on my mind was W282 Salt Water and staying with him.

Windows Media 980KB
QuickTime 1.11MB
iPhone 1.14MB

What resulted was my shortest ride this season at just a little over one second. I had a girl I know film the ride, so it’s from a point further removed from behind the chutes like the others. Salt Water came out, cornered to the left just as I was told. I surprised my self by staying with him around the corner in picture perfect form. I leaned forward to counteract the momentum of his spin, then immediately threw my free arm above my head to sit my body back up. Salt Water continued to spin to the left, but I leaned forward again just like I had on the first turn, and popped my feet out from under me. The bull only kicked like I expected on the first spin, which means I couldn’t use his strength to keep me on him. On a flat spinner, you need to keep your body straight up and close to the center of the spin, then, once you are in rhythm, the rest is a fairly easy ride. But, I was bucked off before I realized all that. The video ends right after my feet come out, but after that I was hung up for about half a spin, and as I crawled away the bull’s hind foot grazed my right calf. Louie was right in front of me when I stood up, and not being an occasion for a high five, I had to settle for a low five instead, as we exchanged bitter grins. I thanked Darrel who had retrieved my rope, and left the arena behind, as the crowd s! ent me o ff with warm applause.

The video having been taken from a distance, it may be hard to see the details of my ride, but I think it captures other elements of rodeo and bull riding events in America. You can hear the rodeo announcer talking about me, the excitement of the crowd who had been told a couple days before this that there was a rider from Japan entered in the show, and you can see the bullfighters position themselves before the ride, how they move as I begin to come off and the way the gateman moves. I wish it were a bit longer, but it is what it is.

I still have a bunch of rodeos a head of me that I entered while I was still in Japan; I have rodeos on July 2nd, 4th, 5th, 10th, 17th and 21st, and intend on making the list even longer.

Summer’s just started.

Jin’ichiro Shibahara

P.S. – I’m including a video of the freestyle bullfighting. It’s not often you get to see this event in Japan. They are using what are called “Mexican Bulls” which are used for Spanish style bullfighting in Mexico. American bullfighting is quite different from the Spanish, and the performance of the fighter is very different as well. Louie is the one that jumps the bull.

Windows Media 1.32MB
Quick Time 1.49MB
iPhone 1.18MB


If you would like to send a message to Jin'ichiro Shibahara, please Email the here, and we will post them here. If you would like us to forward the message directly to him, and not post it, please let us know, and we will do that too.

Real Western
Copyright © 2008 Real Western All Rights Reserved.
Unauthorized Reproduction and Copying Prohibited