THE HEART OF KANJI: Inu Doshi — Year of the Dog


Inu Doshi. calligraphy by the Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

戌 (Inu) means “dog.” This character represents an axe, a symbol for power, and the number one. So the dog can use the axe to gather many things into one.

年 (Toshi or Nen) means “year or age.” The top two lines of this character indicate a rice plant, and the lines below indicate a person. As a rice plant takes time to grow bigger and produce rice, so does a human as they grow in years.

This year, 2018, is the year of the dog. Both Alice, my wife, and I were born in the year of the dog. The dog is one of 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. Alice is 12 years younger than me. There are many kinds of dogs, just as there are many kinds of people. I often joke that if my wife is like a Chihuahua, small, but with a loud bark, I think I would be a German Shepherd, since I am large, but gentle and agreeable, and bark sometimes.

When my son moved away to college in New York, my wife said that she was lonely. I told her that she had me and our daughter, as well as our pet Chinchilla. She talked about getting a dog for six months and every time she brought it up, I told her no! One day, she brought a dog home anyway. She had adopted him from the San Francisco SPCA. I was angry at first and did not want to meet him or play with him. She told me that he had been rescued from the Fremont area and that if he had not been adopted they would have had to put him to sleep. I watched him for a little while and saw that he showed true appreciation in his whole body for his new home and family and quickly fell in love with his silly personality.

My daughter named him Remington or Remy for short, but I gave him the Japanese name of Arigatou-kun or Mr. Thank you. We walk him every morning and evening, and one day, he stopped and was looking at something on the street. It was a $20 bill! I decided to bring it to the Japanese grocery market and buy something. Everyone gathered around and greeted Arigatou-kun, and he was so nice to everyone. When they left, everyone looked happier at having met and interacted with Arigatou-kun. The store owner even gave us two free sushi bentos because he loves pet dogs too!

On these walks, we also began to pick up trash. Every month, I pick up about 4,000 cigarette butts within one month. My older brother passed away last November. He was a heavy smoker and he suffered with lung cancer for three years before passing away. I thought about all the thousands of cigarettes he had smoked and how they had caused him suffering. I also thought about how these cigarettes cause trash and pollution that litter the Earth, including our ocean. They do not easily decompose, and many creatures get sick and die from eating them. Arigatou-kun helps us to keep our Earth clean and is a great reminder to appreciate the big and little blessings we have in life.

I hope you take the time to think of ways you can help each other and the earth in 2018. Have a wonderful year!

Rev. Masato Kawahatsu is a minister at the Konko Church of San Francisco and Konko Center of South San Francisco, who teaches shodo (Japanese calligraphy). He can be reached at or (415) 517-5563. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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