It’s been a sad couple of years for some of the most beloved animals of Japan. First, we saw the passing of Grape-kun, The Great Penguin of Space, in October of 2017 at the age of 21, right in the midst of his popularity after the success of Kemono Friends. This led to an unparalleled outpouring of grief by fandom, reminding all of us to treasure those we lose. More recently we saw the passing of Special Week, the famous Hokkaido-born racehorse who passed away at age 23, right in the middle of the airing of the Uma-Musume Pretty Derby anime about her.
And now we have more sad news: Kai, the white Hokkaido dog who played the iconic Softbank dog Otousan (Dad) in a decade of commercials for telecom provider Softbank, has passed away at the age of 16.
The darling of Japan’s TV commercial scene since 2007, “Otousan” has had many adventures, traveling into space for NASA, promoting Japanese-American relations with the release of Softbank’s “America-houdai” plan that lets people like me use our Japanese phones while visiting the U.S. And through it all the other members of the Shirato family were at his side: wife Shouko (played by veteran actress Kanako Higuchi), daughter Aya (played by famous actress Aya Ueto) and loyal son Kojiro (played by Japanese-bilingual Brooklyn-born Dante Carver). The commercial series had many famous guest stars, including Tommy Lee Jones and Quentin Tarantino (as “Uncle Tara”).
Kei has been retired for the past few years, his famous role having been taken over by his two sons Kaito and Kaiki.
Softbank is Japan’s second largest telecommunications company, owned by Masayoshi Son, the successful Japanese businessman who also owns Sprint.
Here are some of the commercials the famous Otousan: