JAPAN is no stranger to unusual animal islands and cafés that pull in their share of tourists.
It’s home to about a dozen cat islands or “Nekojima”, one of which is the island of Aoshima in the Ehime Prefecture. Falcon, goat, and owl cafés are also scattered in Tokyo and Osaka where customers can sip on coffee in the company of many friendly creatures.
However, it’s the shibas and atikas of Japan that have been making rounds on social media and multiple Buzzfeed gushes. Many adorable dogs have stolen Instagrammers and dog lovers around the world, and tourists are seeking out these famous canines when in Japan.
Maru is an eight-year old shiba that has garnered over 2.5 million followers on Instagram. Owner Shinjiro Ono has documented most of his dog’s everyday life from falling asleep very slowly to grocery shopping.
Last November, a museum was launched dedicated to Maru, a space filled with photos and cut-outs of Maru. Visitors can take photos with the snapshots, as well as purchase postcards and merchandise featuring the famous doggo.
British tourist Olivia Gare told Asia One Travel that Gallery Marusan was the first place she visited after arriving at Narita Airport; she had been following the dog’s adventures on Instagram for some time.
Meanwhile, Hachiko may well be the world’s most famous dog, and something of a national hero in Japan. When his compelling story came to light, a statue was erected in Shibuya as a tribute to him. Since then, many tourists make sure to visit the statue and pose for photos next to it.
The story goes like this: Every day, Hachiko would see his owner off to work in the mornings at the Shibuya train station in central Tokyo, and picked him up at the same place in the afternoon after his owner’s shift ended.
One day, in mid-1925, his owner suffered a stroke and died unexpectedly while at work. However, Hachiko continued his routine of waiting for his owner to show up every day for the next ten years.
People began noticing Hachiko waiting at the station each day and developed a nickname for him: “Faithful Dog Hachiko”. Newspaper tributes to the dog poured in before the infamous statue was sculpted in Shibuya in 1948.
There’s also a museum dedicated to Hachiko in Odate where tourists have access to a treasure trove of information about the loyal pup and the akita breed in general.
Akita dogs are traditional hunters and are known for their fierce loyalty.
Taro and Jiro are also regarded as Japanese heroes, two Sakhalin huskies known for their surviving a year in Antarctica after being abandoned during a failed science expedition to the South Pole in 1958.
A Japanese survey team based in Antarctica were forced to abort their mission due to extreme weather conditions, and Taro and Jiro were left behind while the men left for help. However, the men were unable to return to their base and two dogs miraculously survived the ordeal out of 15 other unmanned canines.
A stuffed display of Jiro is showcased at the National Museum of Nature & Science in Tokyo alongside Japan’s other famous doggos.