The Kai-ken Dog and Yamanashi Prefecture / 甲斐犬と山梨県

和文は英文の下にあります。/ The Japanese translation is under the English post.
Image of a Kai-ken dog
A 6-month old Kai-ken puppy

The Kai-ken Dog of Yamanashi Prefecture

  1. Hishimaru, the mascot of Yamanashi Prefecture, is a Kai-ken dog
  2. What kind of dog is the Kai-ken?
  3. On Hishimaru’s name
  4. On his gunbai (fan)
  5. The Yamanashi Prefecture


Image of Hishimaru, the Kai-ken Dog of Yamanashi
I’m Hishimaru. Nice to meet you! / はじめまして。ひしまるです!

1. Hishimaru, the mascot of Yamanashi Prefecture, is a Kai-ken dog 

This week, the cute boy in the photo above, Takeda Hishimaru came to our town with the people of the Yamanashi Tourism Organization. He is a little ambassador of Yamanashi Prefecture.

Hishimaru is the character mascot of Yamanashi, but what kind of person is he?

Image of Japan with Yamanashi prefecture marked in red
The location of Yamanashi Prefecture By Lincun – 国土交通省 国土数値情報(行政区域), CC BY-SA 3.0,

He is a Japanese traditional hunting dog! The breed is called Kai-ken (meaning a dog of the province of Kai, the old word for the Yamanashi area) and is designated as a national treasure. 

Have you heard about the Kai-ken? What kind of a dog is it?

2. What kind of dog is the Kai-ken?

Image of a Kai-ken dog

The Kai-ken is known for its beautiful black to brown fur with tiger-like pattern. Its size is about 50 cm (20 inch) height and it weighs about 15 kg (about 30 lb) but it is very nimble and has very strong legs.

While they don’t bark often, they are ferocious. In hunting, Kai-ken can kill a deer single-handed.

They are also known for being very faithful and extremely affectionate to only one master (and maybe the master’s family). They live for about 15 years and during their life, they don’t trust other humans and they don’t open their hearts to a second master. People call it “ichi-dai isshu (一代一主, one master, one life) and liken them to some warriors in history who had only one master even in difficult times.

The Kai-ken don’t mingle with other dogs, either. Therefore, you have to be careful when, for example, you take a Kai-ken to a dog run for a play time.

It’s a proud dog and you have to train and establish a relationship as the boss. If you are not firm, he/she will make light of you. On the other hand, once the relationship is established, he/she will be with you for the rest of their life.

3. On Hishimaru’s name

What is the namesake of our mascot, Takeda Hishimaru?

He has the last name of the most famous and the brightest warlord from this province, Takeda Shingen (1521-1573). Hishimaru’s helmet has the family crest of the Takedas.

“Hishi” of Hishimaru means the diamond shape seen in the family crest of the Takedas. And  “maru” is a word often added to the name of a boy or something precious such as a sword, horse, dog, ship and so on.

4. On his gunbai (the fan)

An image of a Kai-ken doc character mascot of Yamanashi
Hishimaru with the gunbai

Hishimaru also has a black gunbai or the military leader’s fan in his hand. On it is written:

“Huurin-kazan 風林火山” (wind, woods, fire, and mountains)

“Huurin-kazan (風林火山)” is a kind of acronym, referring to a phrase from Sun Tzu (or The Art of War), the famous military text from the 5th century B.C.

It is said that in his days, the warlord Takeda Shingen decided to use the following phrase as the fighting motto for him and his army, and had it written on his colors. Shingen was feared like a demon and his enemies would shudder at the sight of those banners.

   疾如風 徐如林 侵掠如火 不動如山

Sun Tzu

In Japanese, it reads: 

  •   Hayaki koto kaze no gotoku (Fast like the wind)
  •   Shizuka naru koto hayashi no gotoku (Quiet like woods)
  •   Okashi kasumeru koto hi no gotoku (Attack and seize like fire)
  •   Ugokazaru koto yama no gotoshi (Unmoved like mountains)

Later, when people recounted the stories of this era, anyone would know it was about Shingen’s army when they mention the colors with the characters “風林火山 wind, woods, fire, and mountains”. It is said that this was the beginning of this abbreviation.

5. Yamanashi Prefecture

In Yamanashi, there are varied nice places to visit besides historic points of interest. 

Image of shiba-zakura in bloom and Mt. Fuji
Photo of Shiba-zakura in bloom and Mt. Fuji from the publication of the Yamanashi Tourism Organization

Having half of Mt. Fuji in the prefecture, Yamanashi is a very mountainous place, although the name sounds like “No Mountain” (“yama” means mountains and “nashi” means “pear”, but “nashi” also has the meaning “Doesn’t exist”).  

Most of the mountains are volcanoes, so they have a lot of famous onsen (hot springs). 

During the summer, the wonderful cool weather of the highlands attracts people from other areas.  

Image of Yatsugatake Mountains, Yamanashi/Nagano Prefectures
The Yatsugatake Mountains. Of course we couldn’t go all the way to the top!

My elementary school (public school) in Tokyo had a lodging facility in the Yatsugatake (“Eight Peaks”) mountains of Yamanashi, and we would go there on the summer program and hiked a lot. At the lodge, I loved their huge jar in the lobby from which we could drink as much fragrant, chilled barley tea as I wanted.

Yamanashi is also famous for fruits such as peaches and grapes, and for beautiful natural scenes of flowers in spring and summer, and of foliage in fall.

For details on the tourism of Yamanashi, refer to the link below.

[End of the English post]

Image of fruit from Yamanashi
Fruit of Yamanashi photo by the Yamanashi Tourism Organization

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  1. 山梨県やまなしけんのマスコット、けん菱丸ひしまるくん
  2. けんとは
  3. 菱丸ひしまるくんのまえ
  4. 菱丸ひしまるくんの軍配ぐんばい(うちわ)
  5. 山梨県やまなしけん





ほん伝統的でんとうてきりょうけんなんです! けん山梨やまなしいきめいのくにのいぬという)といい、くに天然てんねん念物ねんぶつでもあります。

けんって、いたことがありますか? どんないぬなのでしょうか?
















   疾如風 徐如林 侵掠如火 不動如山

  • はやきことかぜごとく(かぜのようにはやく)
  • しずかなることはやしごとく(はやしのようにしずかに)
  • おかかすめることごとく(のようにおかうばい)
  • うごかぬことやまごとし(やまのようにうごかぬこと)


5.   山梨県やまなしけん



Image of onsen in Yamanashi
Onsen photo by the Yamanashi Tourism Organization







  • 高野山霊宝館(一番うえの写真二点が武田信玄像といわれています)

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