Book review: Dog Man

A tale of Japan’s lightning-speed evolution.

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Deep in the snow country of northern Japan during World War II, a 30-year-old engineer named Morie Sawataishi smuggled home an Akita puppy and hid it in a shed. (Keeping dogs as pets was frowned upon during the war, since there was barely enough food for people.) It was the beginning of an obsession: Since then, he has bred generation after generation of Akitas, seeking the elusive attribute of kish?—”a kind of strength and life force,” a throwback to the animal’s bear-tracking past. Sawataishi, now 94, went from hardship to prosperity as his dogs became national champions. Yet it was a bittersweet victory: Though he’d raised both show and working dogs, the public preferred its Akitas mild, not wild.

Dog Man is not just the story of Sawataishi and his dogs’ transformation but also of Japan’s lightning-speed evolution from a bellicose society with bear hunters and recluses living in the mountains to an industrialized superpower of salarymen and city dwellers. Sherrill, a former Washington Post staff writer and author of The Buddha From Brooklyn, tells Sawataishi’s story in spare, subtle prose, showing how this eccentric man remained connected to the natural world through his dogs. We gradually come to realize that the dog man’s quest to preserve the Akita’s spirit reflects a deeper desire to preserve the once-wild spirit of his homeland.”Morie wondered where Japan was heading, where the world was heading, and where the dogs would wind up, if [kish?] weren’t honored and preserved,” Sherrill writes. “What will happen if the principles of nature—pure animal nature—got lost?”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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