Japan keeps word, gifts Akita dog to Russian gold medal skater

MOSCOW • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday took part in a ceremony to present a Japanese Akita dog to Russia's Olympic figure skating champion Alina Zagitova during a visit to Moscow.

Ms Zagitova, the 16-year-old who won gold at this year's Pyeongchang Olympics, proclaimed her love for akitas after spotting them while training in Japan, and local officials pledged to find one for her.

The head of the akita preservation society, Mr Takashi Endo, gifted her a puppy called Masaru in the ceremony in a central Moscow hotel.

Masaru is a male name that means "win" or "victory".

Mr Abe, who spoke at Saint Petersburg's Economic Forum this week and held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday, took part in the presentation.

Accompanied by his wife, Mr Abe petted the fluffy dog before it was handed over to Ms Zagitova.

Russian figure skating gold medallist Alina Zagitova and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with the puppy presented to her in Moscow.
Russian figure skating gold medallist Alina Zagitova and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with the puppy presented to her in Moscow. PHOTO: REUTERS

In 2016, the governor of Japan's Akita region gifted an akita puppy named Yume - "dream" in Japanese - to Mr Putin.

In recent years, foreign ownership of Japan's most famous indigenous breed has skyrocketed, with celebrities like Hollywood actor Richard Gere and French film star Alain Delon owning the breed.

Other famous akita admirers include deaf-blind political activist Helen Keller who took one back to America.

Originally a hunting breed, akitas emerged from the northern Japanese region of the same name.

They are large, around 60cm to 70cm tall and weigh between 40kg and 50kg, with prominent ears that stand straight up, deep-set eyes and almost bear-like faces.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 27, 2018, with the headline 'Japan keeps word, gifts Akita dog to Russian gold medal skater'. Print Edition | Subscribe