In mid-November, Pepeekeo (one-year-old male) returned to his hometown of Akita for the first time in a year to meet his bride. Born in a kennel in Odate City, Pepeekeo was taken in by a Japanese cultural experience center at the foot of Mt. Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture when he was two months old. Upon his rare return, his parents and siblings gathered to welcome him, and everyone was happy to see Pepeekeo, who had grown up into a handsome Akita dog.
As soon as the car carrying Pepeekeo arrived at Akita Inu no Sato, a tourist museum in Odate City, the dog owners who had gathered cheered, “Pepe, welcome home!” About ten dogs greeted Pepeekeo upon his return, including Umeko (one-year-old female), famous for a video of her acting as a cashier, and Homare (two-year-old female), the new signboard dog of Akita Inu no Sato. Most of the dogs were born in the same kennel as Pepeekeo, and Mrs. Hazawa Asami, the kennel owner in Hinai-machi, Odate City, was also present.
The moment Mrs. Hazawa saw Pepeekeo, she couldn’t help but exclaim, “Oh, you’ve grown up so well…” She looked happy and relieved to see his current condition. When Pepeekeo started to growl, she smiled at him and said, “Yes, yes, I know you’re excited because there are so many dogs.” At this point, Mrs. Hazawa was like a mother who was warmheartedly watching her grown-up child.
“Wow, Pepeekeo has grown so big! He looks exactly like Umeko,” Mrs. Takahashi Nobue said with surprise. Mrs. Takahashi is a resident of Kosaka Town and is the owner of Umeko. Pepeekeo and Umeko are siblings, but as a male, Pepeekeo is much larger than his sister Umeko. At first, the two growled at each other, but when Pepeekeo slowly sniffed Umeko, they started wagging their tails with excitement. “Maybe they realized that they are siblings,” said Mrs. Takahashi.
Pepeekeo and Umeko’s father, Sensui (five years old), and mother, Shirako (four years old), also showed up at the event. When the four family members lined up in a row, Shirako got close to Pepeekeo and suddenly started acting restlessly. Seeing this, Mrs. Hazawa said, “Somehow, she sensed that it was her child.” Mrs. Hazawa then turned to Sensui and called out to him, saying, “Look, this is your son!” Pepeekeo on the side barked an appealing “woof” to them.
Pepeekeo lives in Meihodo Aso, a Japanese cultural experience center located in Aso City, Kumamoto Prefecture. Huge houses imitating samurai residences of the Edo period line the vast premises. Visitors can participate in various Japanese cultural experiences, such as tea ceremony, Japanese stage dance, and budo (martial arts practiced by samurai). The center owner is a Chinese businessman named Su Qing, who wished to introduce Akita dogs as part of Japanese culture to people in Japan and visitors from abroad. As a result, he welcomed Pepeekeo to Meihodo Aso in September of last year and cares for him at the facility.
According to Mr. Su, both customers and employees love Pepeekeo, and he is active as a guard dog and a signboard dog. He decided to get a dog from Odate to be Pepeekeo’s wife so that Pepeekeo would not be lonely in a place far away from his hometown.
After the happy family reunion, Mrs. Hazawa came in with a puppy covered in fluffy white fur. It was Pepeekeo’s bride, Moana. Moana means “ocean” in the Hawaiian language. “Pepeekeo” is also derived from a place in Hawaii. They were both named after Mr. Su’s business in Hawaii.
“Pepe, come and look, but be gentle, gently,” Mrs. Hazawa said to Pepeekeo. Slowly, Pepeekeo approached Moana and sniffed her carefully. The two gradually became friends, bringing their faces close to each other and touching nose to nose.
Mr. Masumoto Daishi, an employee of Meihodo Aso and the keeper of Pepeekeo, said, “When our car approached Odate, Pepeekeo seemed to sense something. The homecoming was a wonderful opportunity for Pepeekeo to reflect on the past year.” He went on to say, “Now, with the company of Moana, Pepeekeo’s life in Aso will be even more enjoyable.”
Mrs. Hazawa was deeply moved after seeing Pepeekeo once again. “I was impressed with Pepeekeo’s growth, and I am grateful that he has grown up healthily. When Moana has a puppy one day, I want to go to Kumamoto to help her give birth,” she said with a smile.