We visited the National Akita Competition to take a closer look at the adorably fluffy Akita dogs, and to find reasons as to why the Japanese Akita – and its sibling, the Shiba Inu – has become such a massive phenomenon around the world.
What Kind of Dog is the Akita?
The Akita Inu is an indigenous dog breed of Japan, having its origins in the region of Odate in Akita Prefecture.
For a long time, the Akita was mainly used as a hunting dog because of its fairly large size, fierce loyalty, and gentle character. With the Edo period, however, the big dogs also started gain popularity as fighting dogs, up until the Taisho era. The Akita Inu breed actually was Japan’s very first dog breed that was designated as a special natural treasure.
In 1932, the Akita dog’s popularity suddenly spiked with a dog named Hachiko. In this year, a newspaper article appeared in a newspaper, telling the story of an Akita dog called Hachiko who kept waiting in front of Shibuya Station for his owner, Professor Hidesaburo Ueno.
All of Japan was completely fascinated and moved by the dog’s fierce loyalty, calling him “chuken Hachiko,” or the faithful dog Hachiko. The dog and his story got so famous, a statue was erected in his honor right in front of Shibuya Station – today, this statue is one of Tokyo’s most famous meeting places.
The Seriousness of the National Akita Competition
The National Akita Competition is a big chance for breeders to show off their beautiful Akita dogs. The Akita coming from all over Japan are judged in different categories, varying by age and sex. The criteria are things like posture, teeth, and more – each Akita is examined thoroughly from head to tail. In contrast to the dogs’ somewhat daydreamy expression, their owners were rather serious.
The Akita dogs who have completed the examination by the judges get to go on a little walk with their owners near the venture. Things immediately get a lot livelier as the serious part is over and the Akita get to show their true colors!
The International Fame of Akita Inu
One of the reasons why the Akita Inu breed gained popularity outside of Japan was the 2009 movie “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale,” turning the true Tokyo story into a family drama with Richard Gere and Joan Allen. As it turned out, the story was as touching to the contemporary Western audience as it originally was for the Japanese in the 30s.
Yet another reason is the internet phenomenon of “doge” – a Shiba Inu, closely related to the Akita dog breed, called Kabosu is sideglancing the camera with raised eyebrows. Kabosu the Shiba thus conquered the internet, and while she is a Shiba Inu, the Akita Inu profited from the hype just as much.
By the way: the two breeds are fairly similar regarding features such as their pointy, triangle-shaped ears or the curled tail. The main difference is the size, as Akita dogs are about twice the size as Shiba, often even bigger.
“We receive a lot of requests from abroad, such as France, Italy, Poland, and so on,” explains Mr. Tada, an Akita breeder from Hakodate. “Everyone seems to be falling in love with Akita dogs, so naturally they look for breeders in Japan and contact us.”
Southeast Asia’s Biggest Akita Fan
Not only the Western world has become fond of Akita Inu – so did Asia. The breed has been rather sought after in China for several years now, the demand for the loyal pup skyrocketed in Southeast Asia in the last two years.
“Speaking of, we have someone from Southeast Asia here today,” says Mr. Tama and introduces Joe from Singapore. He currently lives in Thailand and, together with his partner, he currently owns eight Akita dogs.
“I came from Thailand to get an Akita as a new member of our family.”
Sumire the Akita dog just turned one year old a while ago and today, he officially joins Joe’s family. His cheerful youthfulness is more than palpable, his warm, brown eyes shining excitedly from his fluffy face.
“Well, the reason why I ultimately fell in love with Akita Inu is the movie Hachi. I absolutely bawled when the dog kept waiting for their owner...”
We agree with Joe – no eye can stay dry there.
“Through that movie, I learned of the existence of the Japanese Akita Inu, adorable and loyal. Then I decided that I absolutely want to own such a dog.”
Singapore has a rather warm climate, but the Akita Inu comes from Northern Japan – is that a problem for the dogs?
“I have proper air conditioning for the dogs and when we go for a walk, we choose wide roads in the cooler hours of dusk and dawn, and they seem to be perfectly fine with that! There’s hardly anything better than seeing their fur shimmer in the morning, or the setting sun reflected in their warm eyes...”
As he talked about his dogs, Joe really seemed to be on a walk with them mentally. Eventually, he laughed and snapped out of it.
“Akita Inu are amazing. I can’t stop!”
By the way – guess who else is a fan of Akita dogs? Vladimir Putin. He was gifted an Akita puppy called Yume in 2012 and just recently appeared with her on camera. No matter who you are and where you live, the Akita Inu and its wonderful gentle nature and oh so fluffy face are sure to conquer your heart!
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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