Maru is an eight-year-old Kishu Inu from Wakayama Prefecture, and by all reports he’s a bit of a grumpy old chap. But Maru’s cantankerousness has a little more bite to it than most guard dogs, because he also happens to be the chief priest of Yamaguchi City’s Toshunji temple!
Kishu Inu are medium-sized Japanese dogs, taking their name from the Kishū region of Japan, now part of Wakayama Prefecture. According to the “assistant chief priest” at the temple, 40-year-old Sousen Fukano, Maru entered into training at the age of two months. During his training at Nanzenji temple in Kyoto, he followed the same programme as other Buddhist monks, and upon ordination was given kanji for his name, meaning Maru is now written with the character 丸, not the syllabic katakana (マル) used previously and common in pets’ names.
“The Chief Priest bites first and asks questions later” reads an ominous-sounding waterproofed sign next to his guard post.
▼ “This is the Chief Priest at the temple lol”
フランソワ (@francoismomota) March 07, 2015
Maru even has his own official Twitter account, albeit one with a not-so-grand total of 34 tweets over three years.
▼ Like this post from 2012, in which Maru announced an upcoming television appearance.
マル住職 (@marujusyoku) September 04, 2012
To be honest, we were a bit alarmed by those signs about biting, but Maru looks pretty friendly in these clips from Japanese news outlet Asahi Shimbun:
▼ Here he is getting a friendly scratch from Assistant Chief Priest Fukano.
▼ This is one temple precinct where ball games are definitely allowed.
▼ As you can see in the video, there’s even an exhibition about Maru inside the temple itself!
Aside from its canine staff member, Toshunji looks to be a nice little temple in its own right. If you find yourself in Yamaguchi, why not pay High Chief Maru a visit? Just make sure you don’t do anything to annoy him!