Morie Sawataishi has lived a life that is radically unconventional by any standards but particularly unthinkable in ultra-modern and strictly conformist Japan. His life story is a testament to what in today's world is starting to seem a dying virtue -- the virtue of living out a full life dedicated to something other than the accumulation of wealth; of making sacrifices in order to devote one's life completely to a worthy cause or idea, whatever that may be. For Morie, it was dogs. Martha Sherrill tells Morie's remarkable story in Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain -- a rare look at life in the wilds of Japan's snow country and an inspiring tale of how one man's consuming passion for the Japanese Akita dog saved the breed from extinction.
During World War II, Akitas, the magnificent and intensely loyal Japanese hunting dogs, were donated to help the war effort, eaten, or used to make fur vests for the military. Once plentiful and revered in Japan as a symbol of loyalty and pride, by the time Mori returned from fighting in the war the breed was nearly gone. Not fully understanding drove him, Morie impulsively buys an Akita puppy and broke the law by keeping the dog hidden in a shed on his property.
The survival of the breed became Morie's passion and life. He passed up promotions, bigger houses, and prestigious engineering jobs in Tokyo. Instead, he devoted himself to the dogs and raises a family with Kitako -- a sheltered urban sophisticate -- in Japan’s remote snow country. Due in part to Morie's perseverance, the Akita breed strengthens and becomes widely popular, sometimes selling for millions of yen. Yet Morie won’t sell his own spectacular dogs. He preferred, then and now, to give them away.
Morie carved out a unique and rich life for himself and his family in what many consider a forbidding place -- one that is driven by Morie’s devotion to the land, his dogs, and to a more profound way of living. He and Kitako remain in the traditional Japanese cottage they designed together more than half a century ago -- with its red overhanging roof, earthen walls, tatami-mat floors, and no central heating -- while Morie continues to raise and train the rugged Akita dogs that have come to symbolize his life.
Blending archival research, on-the-ground reportage, and captivating storytelling, Sherrill transports readers to a part of Japan that few of us know and introduces us to many fascinating characters, human and canine. In particular, Sherrill tells the story of Morie's distinctive and soulful path, providing a profound look at what it is to be an individualist in a culture that reveres conformity -- and what it means to live life in one's own way.
We are delighted to welcome Martha Sherrill to Rakestraw Books on Wednesday, 19 March 2008 at 7:00 PM to share this inspiring and powerful book. Tickets are $5 and all proceeds will benefit Akita Club of America's Rescue Fund. (Rakestraw)