Escape by horseback at Tama Hills
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- For Airmen who enjoy escaping the world on horseback, there's a little piece of familiarity in the middle of Tokyo. At Tama Stables there are 19 well-groomed and polished horses and ponies ready to carry riders away from the stress of the day.
"It's good for the soul," said Capt. Keri Morris, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 pilot and a regular customer at the Tama horse stables. "When I'm out riding it's kind of a mental break. I get to focus on one thing: riding. It's about keeping my balance, riding correctly and keeping a good rapport with the horse."
Tama Hills is a forested recreation area in the middle of Tokyo that offers a variety of outdoor options for military personnel and their families. At Tama Stables, riders can enjoy a trail ride on a winding road through quiet trees. In the softer, sand-bed paddocks, customers can take lessons in English or western-style riding, or learn to train horses. For children, there are pint-sized riding ponies.
For some Airmen, the opportunity to get on horseback every once in a while is a way of bringing a piece of home to their overseas station.
Morris explained that sometimes being in Japan makes her miss familiar things back in the U.S. Spending time with horses helps.
"Riding takes me back to childhood," she said. "It reminds me of home. I missed the smell and being out by a barn."
Morris, whose mother is a horse enthusiast, grew up riding a welsh pony. She has not been able to ride much since she was 15 years old, but now she has the opportunity again as well as a new motivation. Ever since Morris was young, her mother has wanted to go on a horseback trip across Ireland. Now, for her mother's 60th birthday, Morris is planning such a trip. With the Tama Stables to help her brush up on her skills, Morris will be ready to ride.
Oka Shoko, Tama Stables stable manager, has been riding horses for 25 years. She has been training the horses and working with customers at Tama for two years. Shoko explained that people enjoy riding because of the communication they build with the animals.
"Airmen should come here to enjoy nature and let the horses heal them," Shoko said.
Shoko said that her favorite part of the job is watching the smiles of her regular customers as they improve their skills and understanding of the art of riding.
According to Morris, riding is a good way for Airmen take time away from work and unwind. Tama Stables has an experienced staff and a wide selection of horses. In addition, Tama Hills is not hard to reach from Yokota by car or train.
To get to Tama by car takes about 40 minutes via the Chuo Expressway, or longer depending on traffic. By train from Fussa Station also takes about 40 minutes and then about 15 minutes of walking. From Fussa station take the Ome line towards Tachikawa, and change at Tachikawa Station to the Nambu line towards Kawasaki. Get off at Minami-Tama Station. From there, walk west along Highway 41 until you reach Tama Hills. Guards require U.S. military identification for entrance.