Japan is home to a diverse array of wildlife from bears, to monkeys, to foxes and raccoons so much that some prefectures even made these animals as one of their insignia such as Kuma of Kumamoto.
Diversity aside, there are famous animals in the country that have gained so much popularity that their life stories were even made into movies. These are the following domesticated creatures that have achieved a celebrity-like status.
The most recent movie adaptation of the life story of the Akita dog Hachiko stars Richard Gere in the movie Hachi: A Dog’s Tale in 2009. Hachiko became famous for his loyalty as he continued to go to Shibuya Station at the when the train of his master Tokyo Imperial Professor Ueno (died in 1925) is scheduled to arrive. Hachiko became a symbol of loyalty as he continued this journey to Shibuya every day for nine years. In honor of his loyalty, a statue of Hachiko lays outside Shibuya Station which is now a popular meeting place.
Tama is a stray cat that was adopted by a train master of a struggling train station in the Wakayama Prefecture. It was such an act of kindness to the poor cat that the story made it to the headlines in 2007 resulting to a larger influx of passengers. Kishi Station has now become an icon for cat lovers who instantly go crazy for Tama merchandise. Sadly, Tama passed away last June 2015 and coincidentally, a deputy named Nitama took over station duties.
Hanako first landed on foot in the Japanese soil in 1949 after the World War II. For five years, Hanako lived in Ueno zoo before she was transferred to Inokashira Park Zoo in 1954. Hanako was born in Thailand in 1947 but the exact date of her nationality is unknown. However, it was decided that her birthday should be celebrated on January 1. This year marks Hanako’s 68th birthday which makes her the oldest elephant in Japan. She still remains popular in the public however, she only has one of her four teeth left. Thus, she is given a diet made easy to swallow.
Saly, Hanako passed away in May, 2016.
Despite the 106th loss in March 2004 at the Kochi Racecourse, Haru Urara was still adored by the Japanese public because of her indomitable spirit. Not only did her consistent poor form draw attention to the public but the grit and tenacity that she embodies, i.e. her fighting spirit, made people love her more. Her losing betting tickets became a charm to ward off traffic accidents (ataranai). Haru Urara is retired from the racecourse and is now living in Chiba Prefecture.
Tama-chan is a seal that was discovered in a place where he was named after-Tamagawa, Tokyo. Tama-chan was discovered in a river area around Tokyo unexpectedly because seals at that time should have travelled to the far south where climates are colder in which they are naturally found. Such an unexpected appearance catapulted him to such a celebrity status that his name even became part of the 2002 most popular word list.
・100 Things to Do in Shibuya, Tokyo’s Fashionable Metropolis, in 2018
・50 Things to Do in Ueno, Tokyo’s Fusion District of the Old and the New, in 2018
・ Who is Maru, Japan’s Most Famous Celebrity Cat?