Seeking the Roots of Akita Dogs Abroad - Mutsuo Okada

 

Nihonken Kouza (A Lecture Series on Japanese Dogs)
Kaigai No Akitainu No Ruutsu Wo Saguru
By Mutsuo Okada

 

Offspring of Kongo in the United States

 

Although the 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.    

 

 

Kongo-go Eisu-go or Ace-go

 

 

 

Mr. Michael Shitara Mr. J.C. Prim

 

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.

 

The 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.       

 

 

 

Goromaru-go Tsukasa-go
Senzan-go Torafusa-go

Meanwhile, 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. 

 

Tamakumo-go  

 

Although 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, respectively.

 

 

Muchi-go Fukutaro-go

 

            

 

Tamakumo-go, a 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 period.

 

Torahibiki-go

 

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 were also popular. Thus, the pintos were soon eliminated.

 

This was 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.  

 

 

Daiunme-go Kumohibiki-go
Tetsuyuki-go Kumomaru-go
 
Kita-no-o-go  

 

Akiho’s 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.

 

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 much debate.

 

A 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.

 

Mr. Hirokichi 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 term “old type” or the “primitive type” of Akita may be preferable.

 

Mr. Hirokichi Saito

 

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 breeds.

 

However, studies 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.

 

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 Kongo. 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 Kappei-go came from breeding an Ainu (Hakkaido) (medium type) dog to a German Shepherd dog.

 

 

Dewa-go Kappei-go
Mutsu-go Tachi-go

 

Tachi-go 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 this dog.

    
 
Maru-go

 

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. -- End

 

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.

 

Translator’s Comments:

 

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 photographs related to the Akita dog for which I am grateful.

 

Reference
Okada Mutsuo “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, Japan.
Translated by Tatsuo Kimura with permission form Mutsuo Okada.
Additional photographs were added by translator from other articles, most of which also came from Mr. Okada.
 

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