Asatsuyu Go Odate Sannomarusou with owner Mira Micin and Judge Miura. (Photo by John De Palma)

GARDENA — After celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2020, followed by a two-year pandemic hiatus, the Akitainu Hozonkai North America (AKIHO NA) branch held their 48th official exhibition on Feb. 12 in Gardena.

AKIHO NA was officially established in 1970 by Japanese immigrants, Japanese Americans and other enthusiasts not of Japanese descent. Akitainu Hozonkai — founded in 1927 as the breed’s first preservation society — is headquartered in Odate, Akita Prefecture.

AKIHO NA’s first exhibitions were held in Little Tokyo in conjunction with Nisei Week. Since the early 1990s, shows have been held in Gardena. AKIHO headquarters sends judges across the globe to oversee dog shows. This year’s judge for the North American branch is Kosei Miura of Akita Prefecture, who, in addition to presiding over the show, presented a breed educational seminar to members and special guests.

Kohaku Go Kannarisou with owner Amber Eisfeld and Judge Miura. (Photo by John De Palma)

Miura said in his opening greeting prior to the show, “As always, the North American club show is the season opener of Akitainu Hozonkai’s exhibition calendar, so let us make this a great show that begins another year of shows.”

Akitainu is one of six native Japanese dog breeds (often referred to as Nihonken) still in existence today. All six of the breeds — Akitainu, Shikokuken, Kishuken, Hokkaidoken, Kaiken and Shibainu — are designated by the Japanese government as tennen kinenbutsu, or natural monuments of Japan. AKIHO North America members take special pride in helping to preserve this still somewhat rare breed and cultural asset that was once on the brink of extinction following World War II.

Members came from across the U.S. and Canada to attend the show as spectators, exhibitors and volunteers.

Kojirou Go Kannarisou, handled by Judy Takamatsu, is examined by Judge Miura. (Photo by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

“I saw camaraderie, friendship, mutual respect, and a shared love of the breed,” said AKIHO NA Board of Directors member Mira Micin of Suffolk, Va., after the show.

The AKIHO North America chapter has always nurtured a club culture that has a profound appreciation of breed history and deep respect for the dogmen of the country of origin who saved the breed.

Branch president Steven Takamatsu, who travels to Japan at least once a year to attend a headquarters show, said, “As a preservation society, we expect members to learn and carry the traditions responsibly so future generations can enjoy the beautiful Akitainu.”  

Daikichi Go Odate Sannomarusou is an AKC Certificate of Merit and BCAT Fast CAT (Coursing Ability Test) title holder. (Photo by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

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