FEATURE: Akita dog gets condolence letters from all over Japan

AOMORI, Japan (The Japan News/ANN) - A popular Akita dog known for being “ugly but cute” has been receiving condolence letters from all over the country.

 Wasao used to be owned by Setsuko Kikuya, the proprietor of a broiled squid shop in Ajigasawa, Aomori Prefecture, who died at the age of 73 last November. Since then, worried people have sent more than 100 messages of encouragement to the dog and Kikuya’s eldest son Tadamitsu, 53.

 Wasao has long been known as an “ugly but cute” dog because of his long hair and distinctive face, inspiring a photo book and a movie. An abandoned dog who used to have a rough temper, Wasao grew attached to Kikuya, who took him in, and he eventually welcomed tourists who came to the broiled squid shop Shichirinagahama Kikua Shoten to meet him. 

When Kikuya was temporarily hospitalized about five years ago, his bushy hair sagged, probably because of loneliness.

 As news of her death spread, a number of letters arrived at the shop for Wasao. “She’s always watching over you from heaven,” one said, while another said, “Live a long life for your mother.” Letters came even from the Kyushu and Kansai regions.

 Tadamitsu took over running the shop. He has also received messages of support like “Please take good care of Wasao.” He’s honoring his mother’s wish to keep the shop open, so as not to disappoint customers who come to see Wasao. 

 Tadamitsu said: “My mother welcomed customers from the bottom of her heart. I’d like to carry on her way of thinking with Wasao.”

 Wasao has been designated the tourism station manager of JR Ajigasawa Station since fiscal 2011. On April 1, the first day of the fiscal year, he greeted a group of tourists on a platform at the station. He is estimated to be 11 years old but remains healthy.