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Looking for Hachiko: Where to find Akita dogs in Japan

Looking for Hachiko: Where to find Akita dogs in Japan

Ever heard of the name Hachiko (ハチ公)? Yes, we’re referring to the faithful dog who waited everyday at a train station for his master’s return, even after his death. Hachiko is arguably Japan’s most famous dog—many of you may have seen the movie “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” starring Richard Gere, or even took a picture of Hachiko’s statue during your trip to Japan at Shibuya Station (渋谷駅 Shibuya-eki). 

 

 

Hachiko with the Station Master. (Image credit: Akita Inu Preservation Society)

 

Hachiko Statue in front of Shibuya Station. (Image credit: Odate City)

 

Did you know that the dog is actually an Akita (秋田犬 Akita inu)? The Akita dog is native to Akita Prefecture (秋田県 Akita-ken), with its roots in Odate City (大館市 Odate-shi). It is a National Monument of Japan.

 

History of the Akita dog

Dog fighting in the past. (Image credit: Akita Inu Preservation Society)

 

In the past, before the Akita became known as Akita dogs, they were known as Odate dogs and were primarily kept for the sport of dog-fighting. To make them bigger, the dogs were cross-bred with bigger western breeds such as the German Shepard. When WWII began, food became scarce in Japan and Akita dogs were unfortunately used as a source for food, and its fur were used to make coats to keep warm during the winter. This almost led to their extinction. 

 

Fortunately, there was a family who hid their Odate dog up in the mountains which helped preserve the breed. After the war, the dog was taken out of hiding.There was a movement to preserve Japanese dog breeds and the Odate dogs were bred to revert to its original form. The Odate dog then became known as the Akita dog and was then recognized as a National Monument of Japan in 1931.

 

Characteristics of an Akita dog

 

Three colour variations of the Akita. (Image credit: Akita Inu Tourism) 

 

The Akita dog is a large dog breed and comes in three colour coats: red, white, and brindle. The most common colour is red, followed by white, and then brindle. Frequently mistaken for a Shiba, the Akita is much bigger with its weight going up to an average of 50kg. It has long legs with thick paws, triangle pointy ears, and its most signature characteristic is its curly tail. 

 

The personality of the Akita dog is that they are generally a one-owner dog and are fiercely loyal and protective of them. 

 

Shiba on the right, Akita on the left. (Image credit: Akita Inu Tourism)

 

Not to be confused with a Shiba, the Akita is a large dog breed and its height is well 30cm taller than that of the Shiba. When standing on their rear legs, the Akita can easily rest their front paws on the shoulders of an average-height man.

 

Where to meet Akita dogs?

There are a few locations to meet the Akita dog and here are some of our recommendations.

 

1. Akita Dog Visitor Center

(Image credit: Akita Inu Tourism)

 

The Akita Dog Visitor Center (秋田犬の里 Akitainu-no-sato) is modelled after the 1920's Shibuya Station in Tokyo where Hachiko waited patiently for his master. Real Akita dogs are on staff to greet visitors to Odate and there is also a souvenir shop where you can buy lots of Akita dog themed snacks and gifts.

 

Apart from housing a mini museum on Akita dogs, the center is also home to a Tourist Information Center that can help visitors to the area make the best of their time in Odate. There's so much to see and do!

 

Akita Dog Visitor Center (秋田犬の里)
Address: 13-1 Onaricho, Ōdate-shi, Akita 017-0044
Nearest station: Odate Station (大館駅)
Access: 3-minute walk from Odate Station
Opening hours: 09:00–17:00 (Closed on 31 December & 1 January)
Admission fee: Free
TEL: +81-186-59-4649

*Akita dogs are not on duty on Mondays.

 

2. Akita Dog Museum

(Image credit:  Akita Inu Tourism)

 

The Akita Dog Museum (秋田犬保存会 Akitainu Hozonkai) displays a range of artefacts and materials relating to the history of Akita dogs. It was built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Akita Dog Preservation Society and is the only museum in the world dedicated to Japanese dogs.

 

A statue of Hachiko stands outside the museum, and it faces Hachiko's birthplace in southern Odate.

 

Akita Dog Museum (秋田犬保存会)
Address:13-1 Aza Sannomaru, Ōdate-shi, Akita 017-0897
Nearest station: Odate Station (大館駅)
Access: 10-minute taxi ride from Odate Station / Take a 5-minute bus ride from Odate Station and alight at “Odate-Sakaecho” Bus Stop. The museum is an 8-minute walk from the bus stop.
Opening hours: 09:00–16:00 (Closed in the afternoon of 13 August; 28 December–3 January; Mid-November to late-April: Saturday afternoons, Sundays, Public Holidays)
Admission fee: ¥200 (Adult), ¥100 (Child)
TEL: +81-186-42-2502

 

3. Furusawa Onsen 

(Image credit: Akita Inu Tourism)

 

The mother-daughter pair, Haru and Hana, are on staff at Furusawa Onsen (ふるさわおんせん) to welcome everyone. Furusawa Onsen mainly functions as a hot spring and accommodation facility (ryokan), and they also offer per-use onsen. If you’re in the area and would like to visit them, they do interactions with the dogs as well (depending on the dogs’ conditions) so be sure to leave a little snack tip for them!

 

Furusawa Onsen (ふるさわおんせん)
Address: 27 Nizuna, Odate-shi, Akita 017-0032
Nearest station: Odate Station (大館駅)
Access: 7-minutes by taxi from Odate Station / Take a 12-minute bus ride from Odate Station and alight at “Jukai Dome-iriguchi” Bus Stop. The onsen is a 5-minute walk from the bus stop.
Opening hours (For day-use onsen): 06:30–21:30 (Closed on Tuesdays & Sundays)
Admission fee (For day-use onsen): ¥400
TEL: +81-186-48-4295

 

4. Ani Ski Resort

(Image credit: Akita Inu Tourism)

 

Mount Moriyoshi (森吉山 Moriyoshizan) has something to enjoy every season. From skiing to trekking, there’s something for everyone. Visitors to Kitaakita have been treated to seeing a real Akita dog at Ani Ski Resort (阿仁スキー場 Ani sukiijyo) since August 2016. Hokuto, the dog, has his own private room at the main building where visitors can stop by and say hello to the friendly dog.

 

Ani Ski Resort (Mt. Moriyoshi) (森吉山阿仁スキー場)
Address: 79-5 Anikaginodaki, Kitaakita-shi, Akita 018-4624
Nearest station: Aniai Station (阿仁合駅)
Access: Take a 25-minute bus ride to “Moriyoshizan Ani Sukii” Jyo bus stop.
Opening hours (Ski lift): 08:45–16:00
TEL: +81 186-82-3311

 

Header image credit: Akita Inu Tourism

 

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