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A bronze statue commemorating Akita dog Wasao, whose distinctive looks garnered nationwide popularity, was unveiled Monday at a ceremony in Ajigasawa, Aomori Prefecture.

The statue of Wasao, a big white furry canine with a squinty-eyed face who earned the nickname “busa-kawaii” (ugly-cute), was funded by donations and set up in a roadside rest area in a town in Aomori Prefecture. Wasao died last year.

The once-abandoned dog was brought up by Setsuko Kikuya, the late mother of Wasao’s owner, Tadamitsu Kikuya, and served as a local ambassador and tourism stationmaster at a local train station.

After becoming an online and television sensation, a movie titled “Wasao” based on his life was released in 2011.

To give thanks for helping promote the town, Ajigasawa residents began fundraising for the statue in September last year, eventually collecting around ¥5.3 million ($47,000).

The life-size statue received enthusiastic applause when it was revealed at Monday’s ceremony.

“He was a town hero,” Ajigasawa Mayor Mamoru Hirata said in a speech. “Having the statue as the town’s new attraction, we hope the memory (of Wasao) will touch people’s hearts and bring smiles to their faces.”

Tadamitsu Kikuya, Wasao’s former owner, also praised the statue at the ceremony.

“It’s like (the statue) is alive,” he said. “I want people who want to cheer up to come and pet him.”

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