Let’s take a moment to celebrate the life and times of a very good boy.
On 28 June, SoftBank announced that their beloved long-time spokesdog, Kai-kun, had passed away due to complications of old age. He was 16, according to the announcement.
Although often confused for a Shiba or Akita dog, Kai-kun was actually a Hokkaido dog, also known as an Ainu Dog, a breed named after the northernmost prefecture and its native people respectively. And it was in the small coastal town of Mukawa, Hokkaido that Kai-kun was born in a litter along with his sister Nene and brother Polo.
Kai-kun, who’s name literally means “sea” in Japanese, spent his early years in comfort, enjoying his favorite foods of salmon, sausages and cucumbers. However, it didn’t take long for his bold personality and healthy coat to draw him towards the glitz and glamour of show business.
In 2004, he got his first break in the NHK drama Tenka playing a dog. Later in 2006, Kai-kun landed another role, this time as a dog who fathered eight superhuman warriors in the TBS version of the classic Japanese epic Tale of Eight Dogs, adapted for television.
▼ Kai-kun appears right away and very briefly at the five-second mark, so don’t blink!
However, it was in 2007 that Kai-kun earned the role of his career as the father of the Shirato Family in the long-running series of ads for telecom giant SoftBank. As a member of the eclectic family, alongside his wife played by Kanako Higuchi and children played by Aya Ueto and Dante Carver, he quickly won the hearts of Japanese viewers and became an icon of the smartphone age.
His popularity soared through the turn of the decade, but as with many rises to fame, the small-town Kai-kun had trouble adjusting to the pressures of stardom. In February of 2014, the star caused a stir when during a press conference with noted regional mascot Funasshi, he began acting unruly.
In front of a shocked mass media, Kai-kun brazenly urinated on stage several times and attempted to hump a few people. He had to be removed from the conference about halfway through.
The fallout was immense, with many questioning why a dog of his stature wasn’t properly house trained. Shortly after, Kai-kun announced his retirement in April of that same year, citing old age as the reason.
▼ One of Kai-kun’s last appearances was as the illegitimate father of once-in-a-millennium idol Kanna Hashimoto
However, the role of father of the Shirato Family was passed down to his two sons Kaito-kun and Kaiki-kun who have been successfully carrying the torch alongside guest-stars such as Justin Bieber and Piko Taro.
They say that every dog has its day, but some dogs have everyday, and despite his ups and downs Kai-kun was one such canine. For that we would like to pay our respects and wish him well in that big farm in the sky with lots of room to run around in.