When I visited the Nippo show in Italy in May 2011, with Bizkid and Bazooka, I got the chance to personally meet Koji Shirai. He is a well known Akita breeder from/in Japan and occasionally he also breeds Shibas. In Italy he was guest of honur of the event, because he really puts in a lot of effort to engage Nippo for these kind of shows. In 2008 when Marco visited Japan for business, he visited the kenel of Shirai-san by accident, but because of the language barrier we were not able to do business. So where I had met Maria Angelika Kimura, a Japanese woman born in Argentina, but currently living in Italy, who could interpret for me, it seemed the right moment to act. So I asked Shirai-san if he was still interested in selling me a Shiba. And yes he still was and we shook hands to the deal! But how would this come into effect.....vague plans were developing to visit the Grand National in Himeji, to be held in the weekend of 19 and 20 November. Hmmm, wouldn't that be nice. But what would Marco say, as in view or our situation it would mean that I would go without him.....At least 10 days away, that was unprecedented! Once back home I carefully informed Marco about the plans which were forged in Italie together with Jacobine Broekhuizen, luckily he did not mind at all. So that is when the planning started: when would we leave, how would our route be etc. In first instance Jacobine and her mother Lenie would join me in going to Japan, but unfortunately they had to cancel at the very last minute. But Maria and her husband Claudio Bonfatti would meet me in Japan, so I decided to pursue my plans. At last the day of departure arrived, Tuesday 15 November Marco took me to Schiphol. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous, for me it was 11 years ago that I had made a transcontinental flight and then now all by myself. But luckily Marco has lots of experience in checking in of the luggage, because that is totally different nowadays from what it used to be. Once through customs I could start preparing myself for the journey. It was not crowded in the aircraft, so the seat next to me remained free, always nice to have some extra space. Wednesdaymorning I arrived at Narita Airport nd yes, there were Maria and Claudio already waiting for me, perfect! We would immediately set course to Shirai-san and his petshop, because he would have a doggie for me there. I had already learnt from Maria and Claudio that Shirai-san himself did not have a suitable dog for me, but he had acquired a few dogs from which I could make a choice. What a luxury! Once at Shirai, naturally we went to see the dogs immediately and at the spot I fell for a red Shiba bitch, with an attitude! Her name was Mira and on itself that is not a bad name at all, however, we are bound by our tradition for names with a B....In spite of the fact that I really fancied her from the first moment, I could not come to a decision right away for all kinds of reasons. It is quite an adventure to bring back a dog with me from Japan, she was already 6 months old, how would the other dogs react to her etc. So I asked for some time to think about it, but on Saturday, after having spent a soaking wet day at the Grand National Nippo Show in Himeji (it really was appalling, even my underwear was wet!) I took the decision and said YES! Mrs. Shirai prepared all documents for the veterinary service at the airport on Sunday and sent it over, so that on Monday first thing they could start working on the documentation right away. It all was a bit short term, because normally you'd have to count with 5 working days to make everything work, but Mrs. Shirai did a tremendous job and made everything pico-bello OK. Thursdaymorning she took us (Maria, Claudio and me) to the airport and in the back of the car there was Mira in her bench. At the airport we first had to stop by the veterinairy service, fill in all kinds of paperwork, chekcing of the chip checken etc., but as already mentioned, everything was in total order. Then we went to check-in, for Mira and myself. The lady at the counter gave me another form to fill in, I had to pay for Miras flight at yet another counter, with my proof of payment I had to return to her and then I could check in. What a hassle, but OK, let's trust those over-organised Japanese. At last everything was settled, suitcase was labeled and going on the conveyor belt and I expected Mira's bench, which had stickers and forms all over, to follow that same route. But no, I was told that Mira would remain in the departure hall (in front of the check-in counter!) until an hour before departure of the airplane. Then they would put her on the plane. Well, I was totally flabbergasted, did I really have to leave her there, with all these people! How would she undergo this experience and what was the risk that something would happen to her or that a stranger would take her! But Claudio said to me that Mira was now the responsibility of that lady and she will make sure that everything would turn out OK. That is typically Japanese, so I just had to rely on that. Sigh, there was nothing else I could do. So I said goodbye to Mrs. Shirai and Claudio and Maria, who would stay in Japan for a couple of more days. I went through customs and Mira was out of sight.
In the airplane I counted the hours until I would land on Schiphol, Marco would be waiting for me! In the airplane I already asked the stewardess where I could pick up Mira. She would be taken to a special gate, where you can also collect your 'odd sized luggage'. Once in the hall where I could collect my suitcase, I saw that the particular door was right in front of our conveyor belt, how handy was that! And the belt had just started to spit out luggage when I a man coming through the door carrying a bench, with my little Shiba! So I took her off his hands, who by the way was absolutely lyrical about her (she had been so sweet and she was so gorgeous), put her on my trolley. Meanwhile my suitcase came off the conveyor belt, I put it in front of the trolly and we were set to go. Of course, I chose the side 'nothing to declare', but I was held up by customs anyway. "Madame" he said "what are your carrying there?" "A doggy" I replied. "Did you acquire it abroad?" he asked. "No" I answered "it was a gift" which technically spoken was the truth, as I had not paid her yet.....The customs official started to explain to me that I needed to know her actual value as I needed to pay import duties, as one is only allowed to import duty free € 430 of value. But as I did not know the value of the dog, because it had been a gift to me, he'd let me through for this once. But next time I needed to be prepared to answer these questions, otherwise customs would determine value and would charge import duties over that value! Well, naturally I made myself scarce, that is what you call shere luck! And there was Marco waiting for me at the other side of the fence, I could not wait to get away! On our way home in the car we were thinking of a suitable name for Mira, because we wanted to continue our tradition of names with a B. And as Mira means in Japanese 'happy and beautiful', we thought 'Bella' was an appropriate translation. So Bella it is and she is here to stay. In the mean time she is completely integrated, incredible how she eadapted to her new life. She understands the meaning of NO and COME, words we use a lot with her, because she is a very adventurous young lady! With Bazooka and Brandon she plays wild games and outside she already stands on top of the table, just like the others. We will definately do a couple of shows with her, meanwhile her pedigree is registered in the NHSB and her chip is checked, so Bella is ready to roll!