When Ichiro and his wife Yumiko first settled in the Seattle area in 2001, they lived in a no-pets-allowed apartment complex in suburban Bellevue. At the time, when asked about the most difficult thing about playing in United States, Ichiro replied, “I really miss my dog. That’s been the hardest thing so far.”
After moving into a house of their own, Ichiro and Yumiko were joined by their Shiba Inu, though Ichiro initially refused to divulge the animal’s name to the press: “I would not wish to say without first asking his permission.”
However, he soon revealed the name as Ikkyu, a combination of “Ichiro” and “Yumiko” (according to Wikipedia, the kanji letter “yumi” may also be pronounced as “kyu”).
Later, during a 2007 press conference, when explaining his decision to sign a five-year contract extension with the Mariners and stay in Seattle, he claimed he it was Ikkyu who persuaded him: “He said, ‘Woof, woof, woof,’ which meant, ‘Stay, stay, stay.’ Of course, I listened.”
Sadly, Ikkyu’s trainer Mark Stover, who also trained dogs owned by Eddie Vedder, Howard Schultz, and Cameron Crowe, was murdered in October 2009. The sordid story was later the subject of a televised 48 Hours Mystery documentary.
A much lighter TV documentary aired in Japan a few years ago, focusing on Ichiro’s personal life. Ikkyu gets some screen time, like in this clip showing how he and Yumiko high-five each other whenever they see Ichiro get a hit on TV…
Ikkyu’s gotta be at least 70 in dog years by now.