MB-F October 1999 Newsletter - Volume 2. Issue 26


My Last Article About Japan.... Maybe
by Dorie Crowe

Now that I’m back on Eastern (Eastern U.S., that is) time, not still answering the telephone, “Mushi-Mushi,” and not saying, “Hai,” frequently during conversations, I have this last article regarding dogs in Japan. Dogs are very evident in Tokyo, from the signs that ask owners to pick up after their dogs, to the business signs, to the owners just out for a stroll with their canine companions. The Nippon Cat may be the symbol for good luck, but dogs certainly have their special place in the lives of the Japanese people.

At the National Science Museum in the Ueno area is a display with three dogs, two Inu-type dogs and a white/cream coated Akita named Hachiko.

wpe1.jpg (4020 bytes) Hachiko at the National Science Museum.

As I stood there in the hall where this exhibit is displayed there were many visitors who came to the glass front and spoke in hushed tones. Museum personnel who led groups through the various halls would come to this display and announce that here was Hachiko. Murmurs would go through the group as they said, “Ah, Hachiko,” in reverent tones. Everyone seemed to know the story of this companion dog.

Hachiko’s story goes back to the 1920s. His master was a professor at the University of Tokyo. The professor would take Hachiko with him every morning as far as Shibuya Station where he caught the train to work. Hachiko would return to the station every evening to meet his master at the train.

Statue of Hachiko at entrance to Shibuya Station. wpe2.jpg (8942 bytes)

One day in 1925 the professor had a stroke and died. For nearly a decade Hachiko would go to Shibuya Station every evening and wait for his master until the last train left the station.

When Hachiko died his story was told in national newspapers. There was such a swell of sentiment from the people with small donations for some type of memorial to this loyal companion that a bronze statue was commissioned and placed at Shibuya Station. This is a landmark meeting place in that area. The present statue is a replica as the original was melted down for its metal during WWII.

The Suitengu Shrine in the Ningyocho area dates back to the 12th century. The shrine, which you approach by going up a flight of stairs, is nestled midst a number of shops that sell maternity clothes, children’s’ clothes, toys, etc. This is because this particular shrine is a favorite with expectant mothers. To the right of the entrance to the altar is a statue of a dam and her puppy. Since dogs are usually thought to have easy births, touching the ball between the dam’s front paws has become a good luck ritual for pregnant women or their families.

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Dam with puppy at the entrance of the Suitengu Shrine. Rubbing the ball between the dam’s front paws is said to bring good luck to expectant mothers.

At one of the entrances to Ueno Park is a statue of the well-known samurai, Takamori Saigo.

wpe4.jpg (10234 bytes) Statue of Takamori Saigo and companion.

He was born in 1827 and went on to become instrumental in helping restore the emperor to power after the downfall of the Tokugawa shogunate. At Takamori’s side is a dog ready and alert to what his master’s next move may be. I made several inquiries as to the story of the dog and unfortunately no one knew. (If any of you know, please share that information with us.) The statue was, however, involved in a huge controversy because General Douglas MacArthur demanded it be removed because of its nationalistic ties. The resulting outcry was so huge he changed his order. Today it is considered one of the three most famous statues in Japan.

In the Ryogoku area (home of the Edo-Tokyo Museum and the Kokugikan Sumo Stadium and the Kasugano Stable of Sumo wrestlers) there is a temple that was originally dedicated to those victims who lost their lives in the great fire of 1657. It is still a mix of memorials and tombs.

wpe6.jpg (4580 bytes) The pet memorial at Eokin Temple.
A Pug and his owner out for some exercise in Sibakoen Park, between Tokyo Tower and Zojoji Temple. wpe7.jpg (7294 bytes)

As you go into the grounds there is a large stone with the Japanese word for “power” carved into it (and there are stories that Sumo used to bury their topknots there). Right next to this stone is a small black marble memorial dedicated to pets – the word “dog” is carved into the stone. It is to this place many bereft owners bring the bones of their departed pets and leave behind wooden sticks in honor of their memory.

Also included in these pages are informal snapshots taken at various times in different areas of Tokyo. I apologize for the fact they were taken “on the run,” so to speak, so they may be a bit fuzzy or you may see lots of tails since the dogs were past me by the time I got the camera out! The dog show photographers have nothing to fear from me, but you’ll get the idea. It’s been my pleasure to share some of my experiences of Tokyo these last three months. Next month we’ll be back to articles stemming from matters closer to home.

wpe8.jpg (6472 bytes) Black and white Miniature Poodles in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (formerly the private estate of a feudal lord and then the Imperial family, it was opened to the public after WWII and is one of Tokyo’s largest city parks).
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Shiba Inu owner picking up after his dog then continuing on their journey through the grounds of Sensoji Temple in the Asakusa district.

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Smooth Dachshund at the approach to the Meiji Outer Garden. Pug in one of the shops in the Kappabashi-dori, Tokyo’s foremost wholesale district for restaurant items.
A Manchester on an evening stroll through Ginza. wpeD.jpg (3890 bytes)
wpeDB.jpg (8503 bytes) Whippet on a shopping tour in the Amazoke-Yokocho, an area of traditional shops in Ningyocho.
Near Jingu Baseball Stadium a Papillon charges on. wpeDC.jpg (8257 bytes)
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Boston Terrier strolling the streets of Jingumae.

A bar in Jingumae.

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The Bulldog Grill and Bar near Harajuku.

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Large billboard over Highway.

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A Bichon and owner at the Les Halles French restaurant in the Roppongi district. The AIBO Entertainment Robot by Sony, a popular display at the Sony building at Ginza.
wpeE3.jpg (6968 bytes) A van with the words “Labrador Retrievers” emblazoned across the rear window.
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Display of pet items in an upscale shop.      

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The Blue Dog Gallery in Aoyama.

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