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Saturday, Dec. 31, 2005
The year of the dog -- bow-wouch!
By AMY CHAVEZ
It's the year of the dog! Wow! Bow-wow! According to the Koyomi calendar, if you were born in the year of the dog (1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994 or 2006), you possess a sense of duty and obligation. You are fastidious, diligent and make a peaceful, harmonious atmosphere. That's the good part. You can also be pretty damn selfish and stubborn and you may find it hard to fit into normal family life. During those times, please stay in your doghouse.
The guardian deity of those born in the year of the dog is Amidayorai, who protects the dead in paradise. You will find Amidayorai represented in statues along many of Japan's pilgrimage routes.
The year of the dog brings to mind the famous story of Hachiko the dog, who went to Shibuya Station every day for 10 years waiting for his master to return from work. Absolutely everyone knows this story. What? You don't know? Shame on you! OK, I'll tell you the story -- but a modern, updated version.
Hachiko would go to the station every day with his master to see him off to work. In the evening, Hachiko would go to the station to greet his return, trudging through the throngs of commuters and arriving at the ticket gate a little worse for the wear -- hair matted down, and the occasional Nike tread mark imprinted on his paw where someone had stepped on him. But his master would pat him, ruffle his hair a bit to spruce him up, then pick him up and carry him back home so he wouldn't get trampled on.
One day when Hachiko went to the station, his master didn't get off the train. Hachiko figured he must have gone out drinking, and was perhaps passed out on a sidewalk somewhere. When his master still had not returned in the morning, Hachiko was a bit miffed, as he was getting pretty hungry. He negotiated the crowds back to Shibuya Station, getting trampled on numerous times, but his master wasn't there. Every day Hachiko battled the sea of commuters in hope his master would come back.
For a while, he managed to get by on the occasional free meal at the local dog cafe. One time, a woman at a dog boutique took pity on him when she saw him trying on different bright yellow sweaters in hope the crowds would see him and not step on him. She not only bought him a sweater but also one of those orange safety harnesses with reflectors. His new wardrobe seemed to work for a while, but then he went back to being trampled on.
With no one to take care of him, Hachiko became scrawny and unkempt. His paws were becoming flat from being stepped on so much. He was living on a steady diet of pant legs.
Every day for years and years, Hachiko went to the station and waited, each year becoming a little shorter and a little flatter as the crowds trampled, trompled and wompled on him. It soon became apparent to Hachiko that he was becoming a flat, horizontal dog, and that he was getting perilously close to the pavement. Finally, 10 years after his master had disappeared, someone finally told Hachiko that the reason his master had not returned was that he had died at his workplace. With this news, Hachiko cried, "I have been such a fool!" and dived straight under the shoe of the next pedestrian -- who happened to be a sumo wrestler -- and there he let out his last arf. He died facing west, the direction of Amidayorai, in the same spot where his master had left him.
When Hachiko arrived in paradise, Amidayorai was there to greet him. "Your master has been coming to the gates of paradise every day for 10 years looking for you! What took you so long?"
So that there will never be any more mixups on where to meet, a bronze statue of Hachiko was erected outside of Shibuya Station in 1934 and has served as a popular meeting spot there ever since.
Coming soon: Dog-on-the-street interviews at amychavez.blogspot.com