Shiba Inu greets people at Shimane Airport, the birthplace of dogs

MASUDA, Shimane Prefecture – Shiba Inu dogs greeted passengers arriving from Haneda Airport as they passed through the arrival gate of Hagi-Iwami Airport here on the morning of September 3.

The canids were accompanied by their masters.

Surprised passengers stopped and petted the dogs, saying how cute they were and posed for photos with them.

“I was surprised, but it was comforting and my fatigue went away, said a passenger.

The hope is to attract more passengers to the airport and raise the profile of the city, home to the ancestor of all living Shiba Inus.

A Masuda-based civic group set up to foster Shiba Inu takes care of the dogs. The group includes approximately 30 Shiba Inu owners living in the city and its neighboring municipalities.

The dogs remained docile as they greeted the passengers.

Masuda is the birthplace of Ishi, a dog considered the ancestor of the breed.

The male of the Sekishuken lineage, a race indigenous to western Shimane Prefecture, was born in 1930 in the village of Futakawa (present-day Mitocho District of Masuda) in the Chugoku mountain range about 20 kilometers east of east of the airport.

A Tokyo dentist from present-day Hamada in the prefecture adopted Ishi, who helped produce offspring.

It is said that all Shiba Inus around the world can trace their lineage back to Ishi.

In 2019, a stone statue of Ishi was erected next to the house where he was born, along with a small memorial hall showcasing the dog’s story.

Motoi Nishimatsu, 62, head of the business planning division at Iwami Airport Terminal Building Inc., the airport operator, took note of Ishi’s story.

He enlisted the help of Atsuo Yanao, 84, leader of the Masuda-based Shiba Inu foster group – who was also the leader of the Shimane branch of the Japan Dog Preservation Society, a public benefit organization based in Tokyo. , at the time – to organize the welcoming event, which began in June.

The welcome event takes place on the morning of the first and third Saturday of every month when a flight arrives from Haneda Airport, bringing together 10-15 Shiba Inu each time.

The event has also become popular among Shiba Inu enthusiasts.

“Shiba Inus are cool, mentally strong and loyal to their owners. I hope their charms will be widely known,” Yanao said.

The airport only handles two daily return flights connecting Haneda Airport.

The operator has tried various ways to attract more passengers, including running a marathon on the runway, keeping bees on the airport premises to produce honey, and welcoming arriving passengers with a presentation of the traditional performing art of Iwami “kagura” (Shinto sacred music and dancing).

“Shiba Inus are also popular outside of Japan,” Nishimatsu said. We hope that people actually visit (the town) not only for sightseeing, but also to pay attention to Masuda as a “sacred place” for Shiba Inu and make a pilgrimage. »

Elsewhere in Japan, Akita Inu dogs greet passengers arriving at Odate-Noshiro Airport in Kita-Akita, Akita Prefecture, on dates ending in the number eight (“hachi”) each month as a tribute to Hachiko, an Akita Inu dog known for his loyalty. to his master.

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