As winter gets colder and colder, one of the things people long for is an onsen (hot spring). Tohbei Onsen Karamatsu Sanso, a hot springs hotel in Kyowa Funaoka, Daisen City, has two signature dogs, an Akita, and a Chihuahua. They are good friends even though their body size is much different. The natural hot spring water and the dogs’ hospitality will warm not only your body, but also your heart.
One day in mid-January, the temperature was milder, and the snow was melting along the Akita coast, while the snow remained around Tohbei Onsen nestled in the mountains.
After arriving and waiting in the lounge, an Akita dog Taiga (five-year-old male), and the hotel manager Ryoji Takemura, returned from their morning walk. Mr. Takemura said, “It is our daily routine to run freely for about 30 minutes in the park near the Kyowa Dam.” Taiga’s legs and tail were moist from running in the snow.
“Let’s go wash up,” Mr. Takemura said to Taiga. He took Taiga and went down the red-carpet stairs to the hot spring. John, a Chihuahua (nine-year-old male) who had been “guarding” the hotel, followed Taiga shaking his small body happily.
In the steam-filled bathing area, Mr. Takemura carefully washed Taiga’s legs with the hot spring water from the shower. He said to Taiga, “Now, I will wash your legs.” Taiga looked comfortable and lifted his legs onto Mr. Takemura.
John, waiting for his turn, had his legs washed the same way. Mr. Takemura said, “This is a familiar scene at Karamatsu Sanso hotel every morning.”
After bathing, the two dogs lie in front of the hotel lobby and wait for guests to arrive. Even when they are dozing off, they get up whenever they hear the sound of a car engine or footsteps.
Taiga loves to be petted and comes up to guests voluntarily. In winter, visitors to the nearby Kyowa Ski Resort often stop by, and Taiga is very busy welcoming them.
When Taiga welcomes small children, he lowers his head so that children can easily pet him, or when people want to take his photo, he takes the most excellent pose with them. It seems that Taiga knows how to behave depending on each visitor.
Mr. Takemura said, “I think it is hard to find an Akita dog that likes people so much.”
Taiga came to Karamatsu Sanso hotel in April 2018. Mr. Takemura, a native of Odate City, Akita, acquired him from a kennel in the city through an acquaintance, expecting that an Akita dog would please tourists. Taiga is the younger brother of “Yume,” which was presented to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
John, who had already lived in the hotel, was smaller than three-month-old Taiga and did not want to come close to him at first. They gradually bonded with each other, and now they are inseparable.
John had a habit of barking at people, but as he spent time with the friendly Taiga, he became less likely to do so. John does not like the cold, and Taiga is like a “a warm blanket” to him. When John sleeps, he snuggles up to Taiga’s head or legs.
It warms our hearts to see the two dogs, one large and one small, getting along so well. Taiga and John’s photo is posted on the hotel’s Twitter page every morning, along with topics about the hot springs and the hotel. The hotel staff in charge of posting said, “We hope more people know about our hotel in a mountain village and our signboard dogs.” More fans from outside the prefecture are visiting the hotel to see the two dogs.
Mr. Takemura said smiling, “I would be happy if Taiga and John could be a great chance for people to visit Akita and our hotel.”