No other researcher is as fascinated by Akita dogs as veterinarian Motegi Toshio. According to Mr. Motegi, “to understand a dog, you need to know the cultural background of the environment where the dog grew up.” Mr. Motegi once moved from Yokohama to Odate, Akita, considered the birthplace of Akita dogs, and lived there for twelve years. While Mr. Motegi had no connection with the city of Odate, he now has a twenty-five-year relationship with the City. Mr. Motegi believes there is a connection between his love for Akita dogs and his love for Odate.
You said it is necessary to ascertain the cultural background of the dog to understand its breed.
Mr. Motegi – A dog’s evolution has a history of coinciding with its human relationship. If you analyze a dog’s purpose to humans, the era in which it lived, and the people who bred it, you can conclude what kind of role it played with the environment and its relationship with people. Akita dogs were originally a Matagi (hunter) hunting dog used for hunting bears. But beginning in the feudal era, Akita dogs were trained as fighting dogs, which led to greater strength and size. The cultural change in purpose for the dog led to the prototype breed that exists today. “Cleaning” is also a term used for this reconstruction of the species. The “Akita Dog Standard” created by the Akita Dog Preservation Society is a guideline from our predecessors who want to retain the prototype of Akita dogs for posterity. The evolution from the original Akita breed caused by humans’ actions also means that the Akita dog deviated from its original prototype.
You lived in Odate for twelve years, and now continue to return and attend dog training classes there. What have you learned during this time?
Mr. Motegi – For years, I have been interested in human activities surrounding Akita dogs. I believe the people of Odate understand a dog’s true nature. After World War II, local affluent men helped to recover Akita dogs from extinction. The history and culture between humans and dogs are alive and well in Odate. There is also practical knowledge on how to train dogs to adapt to human society. It is disappointing for me that this cultural knowledge of Akita dogs is not being passed down to the next generation.
The number of people who keep Akita dogs is declining, and the number of Akita dogsthemselves is decreasing.
Mr. Motegi – If we do not expand the base of dog lovers, it will not be easy to maintain the Akita breed in the future. Odate is a very suitable breeding environment for dogs. Again, that is because many citizens of Odate understand dogs. So, as a suggestion, is not Odate able to meet urban people’s potential desire to keep large dogs in a relaxed environment? I hear that there are many vacant houses with extensive gardens in the city of Odate. Fortunately, there are also excellent veterinarians and dog trainers. I think it is possible to encourage migration or to undertake the management of dogs further.
Please tell us about the charm of Akita dogs.
Mr. Motegi – Dogs reflect the ethnicity of their environment. Gentle, quiet, peaceful, and patient are the natural qualities of an Akita dog, which overlaps with the temperament of Odate citizens and Akita citizens. We want as many people as possible to keep the charm of Akitadogs through various channels of assistance, both public and private.
“A Short Biography of Motegi Toshio” – Born in Nakano-ku, Tokyo, in 1947, and currently resides in Yokohama. Mr. Motegi became a veterinarian upon graduation from Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University. In 1990, Mr. Motegi retired from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and transferred to the Akita Prefectural Government. Mr. Motegi worked at Odate Health Center and the Prefectural Animal Care Center, eventually retiring in 2002. After working as the Secretary-General of the Tokyo Veterinary Medical Association, Mr. Motegi took a position as a part-time lecturer at a vocational school in Tokyo, specializing in dog taxonomy.
<October 14, 2014, Akita Sakigake Shinpo morning edition, all the above text, such as age and title are of the time of publication>