A statue of a dog is a common sight to see in one of the many photos uploaded by tourists and locals in Japan. The dog, known as Hachiko, an Akita, was given such an honor for having shown a great sense of loyalty to its owner for several years, patiently waiting for him at a familiar train station each day even after his death. The bittersweet tale is a true testament to the breed, which is among the oldest ones in the country. To this day, many Akitas can be seen walking the streets of Japan alongside their masters.
The Akita is believed to have come from the Matagi breed, a native hunting dog used for tracking wild animals. Back then, the size of the breed only ranged from small to medium. By the 17th century, these dogs were used for fighting which led several members of the Japanese community to crossbreed the Akita Matagi with larger dogs to gain an advantage in the ring.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the native Japanese dog was crossed with Mastiffs and Tosas, which resulted in a significantly tougher breed. The Akita was given an official recognition of being a fighting dog in the year 1931, with several even being regarded as National Monuments.
A few years later, the breed found its way to the United States, where further crossbreeding occurred. Since then, the Akitas from both countries were considered as two separate dog breeds called American Akitas and Japanese Akitas, respectively.
Unfortunately, the Japanese Akita, along with many other breeds, greatly suffered during World War II when all dogs in Japan other than German Shepherds were confiscated and killed by military forces for their meat and fur. Akitas were either crossed with German Shepherds or let loose in remote mountains where the native Matagi dogs lived as an attempt to save them.
After the war, the recognized Japanese Akita breed ultimately vanished, leaving only the Akita Matagis (the original hunting Akita), Fighting Akitas (a cross between the Akita Matagi and Mastiff), and Akita Shepherds (a cross between the Akita Matagi and German Shepherd). Dogs that carried all characteristics of the distinct Akita types were known as Kongo-go, which became quite popular with the US and British community.
However, none of the three types or even the Kongo-go were able to replace the Akita breed that the Japanese community held dearly in their hearts years before the war. As such, they strived to purify the Akita strain from any foreign influences through selective breeding. The resulting breed has become the standard for Japanese Akitas known today.
As previously mentioned, there is a statue of an Akita named Hachiko that continues to stand in Japan, particularly at the Shibuya Station, up to this day. The story of the loyal dog touched the hearts of many locals so much so that a Japanese film entitled “Hachiko Monogatari”, which literally means the tale of Hachiko in English, was produced in 1987.
Hachiko was born in the month of November back in 1923. He was owned by Hidesaburo Ueno, a local professor that lived near the Shibuya Station in Tokyo, Japan. Every single day, Hachiko would accompany his master to and from the train station.
Unfortunately, Professor Ueno passed away in 1925 while he was at work due to a brain hemorrhage. Even after not seeing his master disembark the train, Hachiko continuously returned to the station day after day. The faithful Akita incessantly waited for Professor Ueno’s arrival until its last day in 1934.
Several months before Hachiko passed away, there was already a bronze statue erected at Shibuya Station in his honor. During the World War II, the icon was unfortunately melted and used for munitions. After the end of the war, a new statue was built, which easily became a popular attraction in Tokyo over time.
The story of the loyal Akita also made its way into the hearts of foreigners through a 2009 British-American movie entitled “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale”, a remake of “Hachiko Monogatari”. With the increasing popularity of Hachiko’s story, another statue was erected in 2015 at the University of Tokyo which presents him and Professor Ueno finally being reunited.
The Japanese Akita, which also goes by the name Akita Inu and Akita Ken, is a large dog breed that features a fluffy tail curled over its back and distinctively alert ears. Compared to the American Akita, the Akita Inu is a bit shorter and lighter.
Male Akita Inus measure 25-27 inches in height, while females typically fall in the range of 22-25 inches. The Akita’s weight varies from dog to dog but usually falls somewhere between 75 and 110 pounds.
While American Akitas may come in different colors, Akita Inus are limited to white, brindle, red fawn, and sesame variations. Furthermore, the coat of an Akita Inu must feature urajiro, a term used to describe the presence of white-colored fur on the jaw’s underside, the muzzle’s sides, the cheeks, the leg’s inner portions, the tail, the neck, the chest, and the body.
The appearance of the Japanese Akita is so strictly monitored at dog shows that even the slightest presence of a pinto pattern or a black mask can be a reason for disqualification.
The story of Hachiko is more than enough to convince a person to buy his own Akita puppy. The breed is, without a doubt, incredibly loyal to its master but there are a few other things to consider before making a purchase from a breeder or adopting one from a kennel.
As with all dog breeds, there are some that may be more suitable as pets than others. The key information one should understand about the Akita breed are as follows:
As previously mentioned, Japanese Akitas can weigh up to 110 pounds upon reaching full maturity. The small size of an Akita puppy must never be underestimated, regardless of how impossible it might seem for such a cute dog to turn into a large canine.
As such, buying an Akita Inu is not recommended for houses or apartments that do not have a yard or large enough space for the dog to comfortably run and stretch its legs.
Most Akitas do not like to bark, which is good news for those who are looking to get a quiet dog. These dogs will often communicate with their masters by grunting, groaning, or making other noises.
On the rare occasion that an Akita barks, there is most likely something wrong or unusual in the situation that owners should be alert of. Some examples that would make an Akita bark include an approaching stranger or the presence of an animal.
Although the majority of Akitas are calm when raised right, the breed does have a tendency to lose its temper from time to time. The Akita Inu is naturally stubborn and likes being in control of certain situations. As such, when an Akita feels threatened or challenged, it may act unusual or even aggressive as a means to defend itself.
Given the origins of the Akita breed, it is not surprising that they look at small animals as prey. Be it squirrels, cats, or smaller dogs, the Akita will most likely chase after them, given the opportunity. They can, of course, be taught to behave well with other animals but may be a challenging feat to accomplish.
By nature, Akitas have an aggressive personality. Their aggression is triggered when there is a threat present or when they are unfairly treated. Otherwise, they are a relatively calm-headed breed.
It is unlikely that an Akita will turn against its master or human family but the breed’s innate aggressiveness should be taken note of for those with playful children.
Although Akitas are known to be loving and friendly dogs, they are incredibly possessive when it comes to their food. For those who have other pets, it is highly recommended that the food of the Akita be kept away from their reach. Similarly, when an Akita is eating, one should make it a point to not disturb the dog to avoid any possible aggression.
Given the mentioned stubborn, aggressive, and possessive traits the Akita breed possesses, they need a patient and kind yet strict master. Akitas are known to be alpha dogs and will not listen to humans that they feel are not dominant over them. In addition, these dogs tend to not work well with other canines of the same gender, regardless of breed.
Although maintaining eye contact with a dog is a known form of discipline, it is not a highly recommended method for Akita owners. In line with the innate aggressive trait of the breed, stooping to the dog’s eye level and making eye contact for longer than a few seconds may register as a threat. Although not all Akitas will act in defense, the situation could easily become dangerous and should not be risked.
As exhibited by Hachiko, the Akita has a deep sense of loyalty and is incredibly loving to the people it lives with. In line with this, when they are left alone for long periods of time and not well taken care of, there is a high chance that they may act out and go on a destructive rampage.
Nonetheless, their aggressive nature will most likely never be felt by their owners unless triggered.
Despite the repeated claims of the Akita breed to be aggressive and domineering, they also have a reputation for being incredibly sweet and loving. An interesting fact about Akitas is that they are not able to store tons of energy for a long time. As with other dogs, they will, of course, have a certain period meant for playing around and having a good time. However, more often than not, their days are spent cuddling with their owners in a calm and gentle way.
Choosing a name for any dog, be it a terrier, cocker spaniel, golden retriever, sheepdog, or basset hound, requires careful consideration. Dogs have a tendency to only pay attention to the first syllable stated by their owners which is why many commands are kept short.
Soon-to-be dog owners should take note of the most common command signals as not to choose a name that may sound similar to them. For example, naming one’s dog “Seth” may pose an issue when training it to sit.
In addition, given the stubborn nature of the Akita, giving it 2 names may render the second name useless. Although that may seem fine, if the first name chosen is a common one, it might also serve as a source of confusion.
As a general rule, dog names should only make use of one word and kept at 2-3 syllables. Some of the most popular names for the Japanese dog breed include:
● Seiko – which means truth
● Sato – which means sugar
● Sanyu – which means happiness
● Riko – which means clever
● Kuma – which means bear
● Shiro – which means white
● Kiyoshi – which means quiet child
● Shogun – which means leader
● Kasha – which means oak
● Shinju – which means pearl
● Jin – which means gentle
● Kana – which means powerful
● Kuri – which means chestnut
● Makoto – which means honest
● Yoshi – which means quiet
● Yasuo – which means peaceful
● Katashi – which means firm
● Dai – which means large
● Yori – which means trust
● Tadashi – which means loyal
● Toshi – which means wise
● Mana – which means love
● Yuuna – which means gentle