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Devoted to the dogs, Morie is forever changed. His life becomes radically unconventional---almost preposterous---in ultra-ambitious, conformist Japan. For the dogs, Morie passes up promotions, bigger houses, and prestigious engineering jobs in Tokyo. Instead, he raises a family with his young wife, Kitako---a sheltered urban sophisticate---in Japan's remote and forbidding snow country.
Their village is isolated, but interesting characters are always dropping by---dog buddies, in-laws from Tokyo, and a barefoot hunter who lives in the wild. Due in part to Morie's perseverance and passion, the Akita breed strengthens and becomes wildly popular, sometimes selling for millions of yen. Yet Morie won't sell his spectacular dogs. He only likes to give them away.
Morie and Kitako remain in the snow country today, living in the traditional Japanese cottage they designed together more than thirty years ago---with tatami mats, an overhanging roof, a deep bathtub, and no central heat. At ninety-four years old, Morie still raises and trains the Akita dogs that have come to symbolize his life.
In beautiful prose that is a joy to read, Sherrill opens up the world of the Dog Man and his wife, providing a profound look at what it is to be an individualist in a culture that reveres conformity--and what it means to live...
"Morie Sawataishi has learned from his beloved Akitas to embrace the wild. Read this book and feel that power." (Neenah Ellis, author of If I Live to Be 100)
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Chrissie on 07-15-13
A dog breeder, his family and Japan
I really liked this book.
This book is about Morie Sawataishi, his wife Kitako and their family. By that I mean both their children and their dogs - Akitas. Check out Wiki to see how beautiful these dogs look. There you can only see their appearance. Every dog breed has not only an appearance, but also a particular personality. Morie saved this breed from extinction. In Japan after WW2 there remained only 16 Akitas. During the war they were killed to provide fur vests for soldiers, and there simply was no food to nourish dogs when people were starving. In fact this is not the only breed almost driven to extinction by the war. During the war, Morrie kept his dog No-Name alive, at the expense of his family. After the war he worked to expand and unify the breed.
The point of breeds is to ensure that a litter is uniform. When you buy a dog of a particular breed you know in advance what you are getting, both mentally and physically. It is important to note that not only appearance is uniform, but also a mental conformity is achieved through breeding. The character of a Golden is not that of a Huskie or an Airedale or a Flat. Appearance and character are both genetically inherited. This is not to say that how you train and raise your dog isn’t equally important.
I appreciate that Morie saw the importance of shaping the breed’s mental disposition over simple physical attributes. It is a tricky balance act. First you have to strive toward creating a healthy, alert, intelligent mentality; only thereafter can you play with the color and thickness of the coat, curl of the tale, and shape of the ears! All too often breeders fixate on appearance, forgetting the importance of character, humor and spark, the spirit of the dog.
This book is much more than a typical dog breed book. It is about Morie and the family and how Morie’s love for his dogs shaped every element of family life. This is about a person who goes after his goal, and everybody else has to follow. That sounds pretty brutal and selfish, but you know in the end I believe their life was good. That is what is interesting about this book! You get to look at another’s life and judge for yourself what you think of their life. It is also about living life with a passion. It is about living life for one you love; some of us don’t have these strong passions, maybe we want to follow rather than lead. It is about learning who you really are. I think it took Kitako quite a while to realize that she was in fact living a good life. Was it really being forced upon her? Sometimes it is easier to just grumble, but do nothing to change anything. When you read this book you cannot but compare it with your own family relationships and choices. Who won in the long run? Who suffered most? Each one in the family and each reader will have a different opinion.
Is life best in the city or in the country? That is another theme.
The narration by Laural Merlington was fine. She just read the text. The thoughts presented are what engage you. OK, the Japanese names are in the beginning a little hard, but after a while you recognize who is who. I pulled out a map to find the cities Akita and Sendai.
So, you get life with a passionate dog lover, a lot to think about in terms of how people relate to each other and what life choices each of us wants to make. Very good book. Lots to think about.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By R. Smith on 04-16-17
A must read for any akita lover or anyone who plans to breed these wonderful dogs
By wolf on 04-07-13
I love Akitas, and all dogs in general, so when I saw this, and being a devoted Dog owner(Akitas) I was curious to learn about the life in a country where ways are so different to most, this book explains the life of one man and his fight in the hard Times of war and how when others were killing dogs for money and survival, he saves and protects, and leads a life where owning a dog makes you rich in life but not rich in money, how he and his family go without, how hard Times within his family with the death of children pushes him and his family to the limits.
But this mostly tells the story of how the Japanese Akita was saved and how over the years how the akita was changed to what we all know and love now, this is a fantastic true story of a mans fight and a breeds survival.....
I recommend this 100% and this is a fantastic look in to a way of life and the look in the history of a fantastic breed.
Would appeal to dog owners of any breed and those that have a general history/dog/Japan interest.