Lecture Series on Japanese Dogs)
Kaigai No Akitainu
No Ruutsu Wo Saguru
(Seeking the Roots
of Akita Dogs Abroad)
of Tatsuo Kimura
Due to the recent
splitting of the Akita dog into two breeds by the Federation
Cynologique Internationale (FCI) the Akita dog has again drawn
the attention of the public in Japan. Mr. Okada has consented to
tell us about the Akita dogs that went to the United States that
are know as the “Great Japanese Dog” also call the “American
Akita”. Mr. Okada also presents some valuable Photographgraphs
with his article.
of Kongo in the United States
popularity of the Akita dog continues to decrease in Japan, the
popularity of the Akita dog in the United States and other
foreign countries now surpasses that of Japan, based on the
numbers of Akita dogs that are being produced over there today.
I will now discuss the roots of the Akita dogs that went to the
United States after World War II.
The Akita dog in
the United States has its postwar beginnings with the exporting
of Kongo-go’s offspring, when Kongo-go was at
his peak of popularity. These were the closely linebred
offspring of Eisu-go [Ace-go] (that came from the
breeding of Kongo and Haname. Eisu-go was owned my Mr. Michael
Shitara, owner of the Maiksuso Kennel and who was
well known dog dealer at that time. Mr. Shitara’s friend, Mr.
J.C. Prim?(my apologies of the name is misspelled), who, at that time, was on the staff at the General
Headquarters (GHQ) of the U.S. Forces of Occupation, sent three
more Akita dogs to the United States. These two gentlemen were
the earlier providers of Akita dogs to the United States.
The Kongo line
type with the corpulent body (or spongy body) and characteristic
face and coat colors have been retained in many of the Akita
dogs in the United States to this day.
Exportation of Pintos
The second wave
went there with the exporting of the red pintos and brindle
pintos. In order to understand how this came about, one must
first know what happened in Japan just prior to this time.
Goromaru-go was a pinto from the Ichinoseki line
that began to gain in popularity in Japan around 1952. With the
coming of Tsukasa, Senzan and
Torafusa, popularity of the Ichinoseki line began
to exceed that of the Kongo line around 1955. Goromaru-go had
the face and coat colors that reminded one of the St. Bernard
type that came form the “Shin Akita” (“New Akita”). The
“Shin Akitas” came form breeding the Akita fighting dog to
the Tosa fighting dogs and dogs of other breeds.
Tamakumo-go, also of the Ichinoseki line, also
began to gain popularity at this time. Soon Goromaru and
Tamakumo became the two main bloodlines of the Ichinoseki line.
Goromaru-go was a pinto, none of his offspring were pintos.
However, they inherited his characteristic white coat that came
up to the shoulders. However, his grandsons, Muchi-go and Fukutaro-go were pintos.
Pintos became popular in Japan when Muchi-go became a winner at
the Akiho (Akitainu Hozonkai) and Akitainu Kyokai) dog shows,
black brindle, did not produce any pintos. However, some of his
descendants bred to the Goromaru line produced some strange
brindle pintos which soon became popular. Examples of these were
Amakuni-go of Akiho and Rikimaru-go of Akikyo.
Both were black brindles with indistinct stripes.
When Akita dogs with the white coats that
came up to the shoulders began to win, brindle pintos of that
type seen in Torahibiki-go became popular along
with red and brindle Akita dogs. Many may recall the Great Tokyo
Chikuken (Tokyo Domestic Dog) scandal that shook dog circles and
society for a while. Tokyo Chikuken widely promoted the
Torahibiki-go type of dog and exported many of these dogs. This
type of Akita dog also became popular in Japan during this
If the Kongo line was
the first wave, pintos from the Goromaru line could be
considered as the Akita dogs of the second wave.
However, some soon
became wary of this type of pinto, and many in Japan began to
favor the red and brindle Akita dogs. Red dogs with the black
masks began to be excluded, and the trend was soon toward the
clear yellowish red Akita dogs with white cheeks.
The white mask also were popular. Thus, the pintos were soon
followed by the so-called period of the female, Daiunme-go,
black brindle, from the Yuzawa Ishibashi Kennel.
Daiunme-go produced some outstanding Akita dogs such as
Kumohibiki-go. Daiunme-go’s grandsons such as
the red Tetsuyuki-go and the red brindle
Kumomaru-go soon became popular. Furthermore,
Kita-no-o-go of Akikyo, considered as a white
dog of high purity, also hastened progress toward the ideal
large type Japanese dog during the latter part of 1965.
Large Type Japanese Dogs Abroad
About this time,
the Los Angeles Branch of Akiho was organized and the proper
type of Akita dogs began to be imported from Japan.
However, the United
States in a huge nation and influences of earlier breeder of the
first and second waves in the United States resulted in
viewpoints different from those in Japan.
changes tend to occur every three or more years. Whenever an
Akita dogs gains any favorable attention, breeders in Japan tend
to move toward that bloodline. This may not be true abroad.
Newcomers there tend to retain those Akita dogs from the first
and second waves. Consequently, we now see three different types
of Akita dogs in the United States.
In Japan, only one type
of Akita dog is found today. Akita dogs from the past may be in
the pedigrees of today’s Akita dogs, but no features of the
older types are seen in these Akita dogs. The differences
between Akita dogs in Japan and abroad have also resulted in
Revival Toward the Large Japanese Type Dog
A study into the
history of the Akita dog may provide answers to some of the
questions. The Akita dog was almost lost during the Taisho
Period (1912 - 1926) when they were bred to Tosa fighting dogs.
These mixed Akita dogs were called the “Shin Akita” (“New
Akita”) and were used as fighting dogs.
Saito started the Nipponinu Hozonkai (Nippo)
around 1928 to make a call to the public for the purification of
the Akita dog with standing ears and curled tail. “To create the
large Japanese type dog” may be a better term than “revival
of the large Japanese type dog.” Although, the term
“restoration of the classical Akita dog” has been used in
the past, the word “classical” usually refers to written
materials such as books. Therefore, the terms, “old type” or
the “primitive type” of Akita may be preferable.
Informed breeders are
trying to produce what they believe to be the original form of
the Akita dog that existed before the outcrossing to other dog
by Hirokichi Saito have shown that no dog bones suggesting a
height greater than 2 shaku (approximately 60.6 cm, 23.9 inches)
have yet to be found by archeologists. Height increased with
outcrossing to the Tosa fighting dog or to dogs of other western
breeds. The height of dogs of the Ichinoseki line increased when
they were bred to bloodlines of the “Shin Akita” (“New
Akita”). Dogs of the Dewa line increased in height from the
bloodline of Tachi-go. Kongo-go of the
Dewa line has been known for its great size and weight. The Dewa
line has the bloodline of Mutsu-go, the son of
Kappei-go and that of Tachi-go. Kappei-go was
produced by Mr. Takeo Sato, a dog dealer from
Tokyo. He also had much to do with Tachi-go.
I have discussed
the bloodlines of Dewa-go, Tachi-go and Mutsu-go
in the past and will not go into any lengthy details at this
time. However, Photographs of these dogs reveal the facial
features of Kong. Kappei-go, Mutsu’s sire, was a medium black
and tan dog with the“yottsume (four eyes pattern” on its
forehead and face, and registered with Nippo in the medium type
group. Mr. Takeo Sato has stated that Kappi-go came from
breeding an Ainu (Hakkaido) (medium type) dog to a German
with a height of 2 shaku 4 sun
(approximately 72.7 cm, 28.6 inches) was produced by Mr. Toyoji
Kanari (Masanari?). Tachi’s coat color is not that of a true
Akita dog. He was registered with Nippo (Nippo was the only
prestigious Japanese dog organization at that time). Tachi’s
sire, Iwa-go came from Niigata. His pedigree is unknown.
Tachi’s dam, Hatsu-go came from Tokyo. Her pedigree is also
unknown. However, I have recently discovered a pedigree of one
of the offspring of Tachi-go that was produced in Odate when
Tachi-go was there for a time. The pedigree is on an application
form of Mr. Kanari. According to this pedigree, Iwa-go was out
of Maru and Funi (Fuji). In the Volume 1, Issue No 3 of the
Nippo Bulletin is a Photograph of Maru
taken at the Nippo’s First Headquarters Show of November 6,
1932. The dog’s height of 68 cm (approximately 26.8 inches)
should be noted. Mr. Toyoji Kanari was the owner. This is in
agreement with the information from Mr. Takeo Sato. One could
just visualize the types of Akita dogs that were produced from
In the mid 1920’s, many
large type Japanese dogs also existed outside the prefecture of
Akita. I have discussed such dogs in the past, but due to
limitation of space I will end my discussion for now. --
Mutsuo Okada was
born in Tokyo in 1937. He is a 1959 graduate of the Keio
University with a major in economics. From his junior high
school days, he received much of his education on the Akita dog
from Mr. Hyoemon Kyono. He is a former vice chairman of the
Akitainu Kyokai (Akikyo). He is currently president of the Royal
Ham Company, Inc. in Tokyo.
“Kaigai No Akitainu No Ruutsu Wo Saguru (“ Seeking The Roots
of The Akita Dogs Overseas”),”
Aiken No Tomo, pp. 377-379,
February, 2000, Seibundo Shinkosha Publishing Co., Ltd., Tokyo,
Tatsuo Kimura with permission form Mutsuo Okada.
Photographgraphs were added by translator from other articles,
most of which also came from Mr. Okada.
Mr. Mutsuo Okada
is one of the few remaining informed writers on the Akita dog in
Japan. He learned much about the Akita dog with frequent visits
to the home of the late Mr. Hyoemon Kyono in Yuzawa. Mr. Kyono
was well-known in Yuzawa and was involved with the Tosa Fighting
Dog earlier in his career and later with the Akita dog. He was a
respected member and official with the Tosa Fighting Dog
Society, Nippo and eventually with Akikyo.
During his student days
in Tokyo, Mr. Okada also saw the famous Kongo-go at the home of
Mr. Heihachi Hashimoto, the owner and handler of Kongo.
Mr. Okada also obtained
some first hand information on the origins of the Akita dot by
visiting the mountain villages of Sawauchi and Gosho, as Mr.
Kyono did decades earlier.
He also developed a
close a very close friendship with Mr. Tamejiro Ishibashi of
Akikyo, who also lives in Yuzawa and who was a relative and also
a student of Mr. Kyono. Mr. Okada’s friendship with Mr.
Ishibashi continues to this day. Mr. Ishibashi produced the
famous Akita dog Daiunme-go.
Mr. Okada was also the
vice-chairman of Akikyo until his retirement from that
organization in the early 1900s.
His articles on the
Akita dog have appeared in Japanese dog magazines such as the
Aiken No Tomo and the Aiken Journal for over twenty-five years.
He is also the author of the book, Keito Tokuhon, Akitainu (A
Book on Pedigrees of the Akita Dog) that was published in 1992
by Sebundo Shinkosha of Tokyo, Japan. This book has been used as
a reference on the history and pedigreed of the Akita dogs by
both Akiho and Akikyo. Some of his articles on the Akita dogs
that have been translated into English have appeared from time
to time in the Akita World since January 1994.
I had the privilege of
meeting him for the first time in Tokyo in 1992. He continues to
provide me with information and Photographgraphs related to the
Akita dog for which I am grateful.