Work began Wednesday at Tokyo Tower to remove the statues of 15 Sakhalin huskies that accompanied the first Japanese expedition to the Antarctic in the late 1950s.
The statues, which have stood near the broadcast tower for more than 50 years, include those of Taro and Jiro, the only dogs that survived after being left behind when the Japanese team returned home in February 1958.
The statues will likely be moved to the National Institute of Polar Research in Tokyo. The move is part of an afforestation project on the tower grounds.
The 15 sled dogs were left at the Japanese base as a second team was on its way to immediately replace its predecessor. But bad weather prevented the second team from reaching the base and retrieving the dogs.
Back in Japan, the expedition teams faced fierce public criticism. When a third expedition team arrived at the base a year later, two of the dogs were still alive.
The statues were designed by renowned sculptor Takeshi Ando — known for his depiction of another famous dog, Hachiko, in front of JR Shibuya Station — and erected by the Japan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in September 1959, a year after the tower opened.
The survival of the dogs was widely reported in the media. Movies, TV dramas and an animated series were made based on the story.