Famous Shiba has museum dedicated to it
IN AN online world filled with celeb snaps, rants and gossip, an adorable dog has captured the hearts of people worldwide.
Maru, an eight-year-old male Shiba that lives in Tokyo, has become an Instagram star, with more than 2.4 million followers in Japan and abroad.
Snapshots of his everyday life - from sniffing flowers to rolling on the grass and simply lazing around - are posted daily on the social media site.
Today, the round-faced Shiba - a breed that is native to Japan - has books filled with his photos, scored an endorsement deal and has even been named a tourism ambassador.
Last November, a museum dedicated to Maru opened near Nezu subway station in Tokyo.
British tourist Olivia Gare visited the Gallery Marusan on April 12, saying it was the first place she headed to after arriving at Narita Airport the previous night. She said she had been following Maru on Instagram for six months.
It all started when Shinjiro Ono, a 42-year-old company owner, found Maru in a pet shop in 2007, and began recording his two-month-old puppy's growth on Instagram.
Years later, in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, Mr Ono posted photos of his pet daily to bring cheer to those affected by the disaster. "There were only a few followers in the beginning," he recalled.
"But within a month, there were more than 5,000."
About 90 per cent of Maru's Instagram followers live abroad, with about 25 per cent in the United States.
The dog has since branched out of the social media realm.
Kadokawa has published three photo books featuring Maru, which have been translated and published in South Korea, China and Taiwan.
Recently, a Taiwan information technology company chose the canine to promote its remotely controlled dog monitor at Interpets, one of the largest pet events in Japan held from March 31 to April 3.
Maru's popularity also impressed officials of the Mie prefectural government, who commissioned him as the "Mie no Kuni Kanko Taishi" tourism ambassador in November.
In March, the dog made a trip to the prefecture for a tourism promotion video.
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/
ASIA NEWS NETWORK