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Essay

Reindeer deliveries

By Deborah Davidson

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Do you remember reading the news last winter that Domino's Japan was training reindeer to deliver pizzas? The meteorologists were forecasting a harsh winter, with unusually heavy snowfall. Domino's was worried that their fleet of company scooters would not be able to deliver pizzas in that kind of weather.

They claimed that reindeer had many advantages over scooters. Reindeer are less likely to sink and get stuck in the snow. They are cheaper and easier to maintain than four-wheel drive vehicles and snowmobiles, which Domino's had also considered for the purpose. Reindeer can endure extreme cold, run at a speed of up to 80 kph, and don't require a driver's license to operate.

Many people thought training reindeer for pizza delivery was a joke or a publicity stunt. But I heard the news with a special excitement. The photographs showed that reindeer were actually being trained in Ishikari City, Hokkaido. That is very close to my art studio in Atsuta where I live for much of the year.

Though historically a fishing village, Atsuta is a popular vacation spot that is famous for beautiful sunsets and ocean views. It is also famous for fierce blizzards and life-threatening snowdrifts in the winter. Blizzards sometimes force the closing of the highway because the snowplows cannot work fast enough to keep the road clear.

I don't drive a car, so I depend on a variety of delivery services to get food and household items at my remote address. This includes the Japan Post, Todokku (the delivery arm of the Seikyo Food Co-op) and Yamato Transport. Of course, I mustn't forget the vacuum truck that comes regularly to clean out our septic tank!

My studio is not far from the highway. But the path leading to it is very steep and difficult to maneuver in the snow. None of my usual delivery services can reach me when the highway closes down. I hoped that the reindeer delivery project would make winter in Atsuta a little easier. And more entertaining too.

In the end, the project was scrapped. The reindeer refused to stop in front of customers' homes. They became startled by barking dogs and flipped over pizza boxes. The failure of the reindeer delivery project meant that I had to give up any hope of living in Atsuta during Hokkaido's long snow season.

I continue to wonder if someone will come up with a better solution. Hokkaido is a land rich in wildlife and natural resources. The Steller's sea eagle is a large bird that is active in the winter. Maybe it can be trained?

トナカイが配達?

筆者が1年の多くを過ごす石狩市厚田区は、冬の天候が厳しいことで有名だ。昨冬、雪の中でも宅配ができるように大手ピザチェーンが、トナカイにピザの配達をさせようと企画したが…。

The Japan Times ST: December 22, 2017

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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