Wasao, the stationmaster dog わさお観光駅長
A canine celebrity!
For the seventh year running, the Akita dog takes on the role of stationmaster of a small town in Aomori, northern Japan.
Wasao is far from the first animal to represent an aspect of Japanese infrastructure. The best known is probably Tama the cat, also a stationmaster. It's a skillfully-used technique in Japan to revive tourism in an isolated region or increase the popularity of an shop or restaurant. However, Wasao found his place in the heart of the Japanese thanks to a touching story.
It's an opportunity to discover a little visited region of Japan, which marks the northern limit of Honshu and faces Hokkaido. The prefecture of Aomori offers wonderful landscapes, with forests, lakes and mountains. Less than an hour from the town of Wasao, Ajigasawa, is the magnificent Hirosaki Castle, the main tourist attraction of the region.
Wasao is an Akita, a breed of dog native to northern Japan. Before being photographed by tourists, wearing his stationmaster scarf, Wasao, whose age is estimated at 11, lived on the street. In 2008, a blogger shared the story of the abandoned dog and he became a phenomenon, on the web and in the press. Everything moved very fast and in 2011, after being appointed stationmaster and ambassador for World Heritage-related activities, Wasao starred as the main character in a film about his story. His owner is played by Hiroko Yakushimaru, a popular actress who stars in many tv series and movies in Japan.
Check out the trailer for the movie "Wasao":
Busakawaii, ugly yet cute
The Japanese have been won over by this particular dog. In fact, there is a word in Japanese slang to describe something that isn't beautiful, maybe even ugly, but is still adorable. And public opinion agrees that Wasao meets the criteria of busakawaii, a word born from the mix between busaiku (ugly) and kawaii (cute). So, with his partner Tsubaki and their little daughter Chome, appointed deputy chief and trainee respectively, Wasao will continue to represent the station of his city in Aomori through March 31 next year. JR Ajigasawa station is well guarded by this small family that has helped revive tourism in the region, as fans from all over the country flock to greet the famed Akita and see him in action.
Wasao isn't the first dog of this breed to move the Japanese. Hachiko, the famous dog whose statue stands in front of Shibuya Station in Tokyo, was also an Akita. His story also had several movie adaptations.
See also: The story of Hachiko