Maybe you’ve seen the movie Hachiko, or maybe you haven’t. If you’re looking for Japanese films about dogs that are worth watching, then you’re in for a treat! Here is a list of some of the most inspiring and heartwarming Japanese movies that feature dogs. Gather your family and friends and be prepared to laugh, cry, and cry some more. Spoilers are kept at a minimum, so yes, you’re welcome.
The film is about the incredible love and loyalty of an Akita dog named Hachiko for his master, Professor Ueno. In 1924, the professor received an Akita puppy and named him Hachiko. When Hachiko became an adult, he started accompanying his master to the Shibuya train station where the professor rides to work. Hachiko then waits for his master at the station at the end of each day. One day, Prof. Ueno suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in his class and never made it home. Feeling lonely, his wife sold the house and left for the South. Because she could not take Hachiko with her, she entrusted Hachiko to a couple of friends. However Hachiko always goes back to the station and to their previous house. The Akita dog become a regular sight at the station every day so much that a local newspaper decided to write an article about him. For the next nine years, the dog faithfully waits for his master at the station every day. One night, Hachiko sees Prof. Ueno at the station. The Akita dog happily runs toward his master and receives a tight embrace. An American adaptation of the movie, titled “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” was released in 2009 and has Richard Gere as the professor.
The movie is based on the Chuetsu earthquake that occurred in 2004. Siblings Ryota and Aya find an abandoned puppy one day and adopt her. Named Mari, the Shiba inu gives birth to three puppies a year after. On October 23, 2004, a powerful earthquake strikes the village where the family lives. That day, only Aya and her grandfather were home with Mari. The family’s house collapses, trapping Aya and her grandfather inside. Mari runs for help and members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces are able to rescue them. Unfortunately, Mari and her puppies were left behind as animals were not allowed on the helicopter. Mari and her puppies try to survive on their own. Ryota and Aya decide to rescue the dogs before torrential rain floods their village but fail to do so. When the aftershocks have subsided, members of the families are able to pay their homes a visit. Together with their father, Ryota and Aya visit the village to look for Mari…
Based on the novel by Hare Kawaguchi, the film is about the friendship between a girl, Akari Saito and her Golden Retriever named Socks. When Akari’s mother died, all she has left is her surgeon father and Socks. Before her mother passed away, she told Akari about the 10 promises that dog owners need to fulfill for their dogs and asked her not to forget them. To take care of both Akari and Socks, her father resigns from his new job and returns to their old place to open a clinic. Ten years later, Akari is already a college student taking up veterinary medicine. After her graduation, she leaves home to work in a zoo. Because of her heavy workload, she can no longer spend more time with Socks. One day, she receives a call from her father telling her about Socks’ ailing condition and asks her to come home before it’s too late…
The story is based on the 1958 Japanese expedition to Antarctica. In February of the year 1958, Japan’s First Cross-Winter Expedition has to leave its Showa Base in Antarctica due to extreme weather condition. They left the group’s 15 Sakhalin huskies in the base, expecting that they would be able to return soon. However due to the weather condition and fuel shortages, the group is not able to make it back. Left chained, eight of the dogs manage to break loose and wander in the vast frozen Antarctica. The Karafuto sled dogs are forced to survive on their own for several months. On January 14, 1959, eleven months later, Ushioda and Ochi, two of the dog handlers in the First Expedition, arrive in the Showa Base as part of the Third Cross-Winter Expedition. They want to know what happened to the dogs they left behind. The story was also adapted into the movie “Eight Below” in 2006, with the late actor Paul Walker as the lead.
A young man named Yasuyuki meets an abandoned dog one night. Dumped by his girlfriend Miwa, Yasuyuki decides to take care of the dog. He named the dog Tamura and enrolls him as a therapy dog. Meanwhile, his ex-girlfriend Miwa returns home to take care of her family. Miwa is in a lot of stress as her mother is dying and her younger sister hates her and refuses to leave the house. Yasuyuki asks Miwa to take care of Tamura, who has shown potential as a therapy dog during his training. Tamura’s presence in Miwa’s home brings a positive energy to the household and to Miwa’s relationship with Yasuyuki.
The film is an adaptation of the novel “The Life of Quill, the Seeing-Eye Dog”, which is based on a true story. Quill, a Yellow Labrador Retriever with a bird-like mark on his left side, is selected as a guide dog. Dog trainer Satoru entrusts Quill to puppy walkers, Mitsuko and Isamu Nii in Kyoto to be raised for a year. When Quill turns one, he begins his guide dog training with Satoru. He is introduced to the blind journalist, Watanabe, and the pair undergoes training. After Watanabe obtains his guide dog owner license, Quill goes to live with him and his family for two years. One day, Watanabe’s diabetes worsened, leading to kidney failure. With Watanabe confined in the hospital, Quill returns to the center to work as a demonstration dog. After two years, the pair reunites for a walk. The 30-meter walk, however, turns out to be their last.
This movie has overlapping storylines with commercials and singing and dancing skit included. The film’s main story arc is that of a guy named Yamada who works in advertising. When he was younger, he lived in a quiet suburb where he met a dog. He named the dog Pochi and even wrote the name in the dog’s toy ball. He had an asthma attack one day while playing with Pochi and was taken to the hospital. Pochi spent many days looking for Yamada. The dog ends up outside the hospital where Yamada was previously confined. Waiting for the kid, Pochi stays at the entrance of the hospital for years, with the toy ball by his side. One rainy night, Pochi dreams that the little boy Yamada returned to the hospital and gave him a loving hug. Now grown up, Yamada returns to the suburb. That night he dreams that he was playing with Pochi again just like in the past. Another story arc is that of Mika and her dog Marimo. The story does not overlap with the others but remains just as endearing. There’s also the story of the pug and his lovestruck owner. Another story is that of a guy who invented the “Bowlingual”, a machine that can translate a dog’s bark into human words.
Based on the “Hoshi Mamoru Inu” manga, the film tells the story of city hall employee Kyousuke Okutsu and the case of a man found dead inside a car next to a dead Akita dog. Okutsu embarks on an investigation to learn their identities using the receipts he found at the scene. Along the way he meets a young girl named Yuki, who tags along with him and becomes his companion. Visiting the shops where the pair was last seen, Okutsu and Yuki discover the incredible story of devotion and love between the old man and his dog, which was named Happy. Returning to the site where the bodies were found, Okutsu plants several pieces of the man’s bones in Happy’s grave. When Okutsu returns to work, he sees an abandoned puppy outside his work place and decides to adopt the dog. Meanwhile on Happy’s grave, something beautiful comes to life.
The movie is based on the true story of an Akita dog named Shiro/Wasao. As a puppy, Shiro’s new owner Akira gave him back to his Aunt after his mother was hit by a car trying to save the puppy. Shiro, however, wanders back to the town of Ajigasawa where Akira and his family reside. Living as a stray, Shiro is befriended by Setsuko, a resident of the town known for adopting stray dogs. Setsuko named Shiro as Wasao because he is very fluffy. One day, a bear is sighted in the woods. However, even with the bear sighting, a triathlon and festival celebration is still held to liven up the quiet town. That day, Akira’s mother is transferred to Tokyo for her operation. Akira, thinking that he will not be able to see his mother again, decides to follow her, taking the path through the woods where the bear is sighted. Wasao sees Akira and follows him into the woods.
A widowed man named Shoji Kanzaki works in an animal kill shelter. The facility only allows the animals to be kept for seven days. If no one claims or adopts the animals, they are eventually euthanized. One day, they captured a mother dog with her three puppies. Because she is overprotective of her puppies, she is labeled as vicious by the shelter. Shoji wants to help the mother dog and her puppies so he extends their stay in the shelter. One night, he had to explain to her daughter Satomi that the animals in the shelter are eventually disposed of once they run out of time. After that his daughter refuses to talk to him. His good friend and vet, Yoshihisa Igarashi, help them patch things up. Meanwhile, the mother dog’s stay in the shelter is already at its end. With only a day left for the dogs, Shoji, Yoshihisa, and Satomi are desperate to find ways to rescue the mother dog and her puppies.
Now you can include this list in your collection of heartwarming dog movies. When you’re in need of inspiration you can always play a movie or two from the 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
・Hachiko, Japan’s National Symbol of Loyalty