I was lucky to spend time in the fabled snow country of Japan to research this book, and to meet the Sawataishi family. Dog Man tells the story of the family patriarch, Morie, who lived a radically unconventional life — particularly in ultramodern and blatantly conformist Japan.
The story opens with a view to a world that Americans know very little about — the north of Japan during World War II. In a mountain village, we meet Morie, 30 years old, a fierce individualist who breaks the law by keeping an Akita dog hidden in a shed on his property. During the war, 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. By the time of the Japanese surrender in 1945, there were only sixteen Akitas left in the country. The survival of the breed becomes Morie’s passion and life, almost spiritual calling. Spanning the decades from the post-war occupation to the late 1990s, we see Morie and his wife Kitako in all phases of their marriage and lives, and follow Japan’s turbulent history into the modern age.
“Dog Man is a peerless tale of a life’s work unfolding, written in prose so spare, rare, and beautiful it took my breath away.” – David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“The Story of Morie Sawataishi and his magnificent dogs – with their superior intelligence, stamina, fearlessness, and almost spiritual call – is really about the search for enduring values and the determination to live life on one’s own terms.” – Cathleen McGuigan, Newsweek
“Only a handful of visitors have tried to approach [Japan] through sympathetic imagination and not through surfaces or statistics, let alone analysis. Now, to that very small number, can be added Martha Sherrill, one of the most open and responsive writers around, whose special gift is for entering other lives so deeply that we feel their longings, their confinements, as our own. By the end of Dog Man, as Morie and Kitako pass through their eighties, we have come to know, and feel, their lives so fully that even t