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Japanese 'miracle cow' who lived 2 decades after being swept out to sea honored in bronze

The statue of Genki-kun the bull overlooks central Shoo, Okayama Prefecture, on Feb. 6, 2021. (Mainichi/Kazuki Iwamoto)

SHOO, Okayama -- A statue of a bull who returned home alive after being swept onto the shores of an island some 90 kilometers away by typhoon flooding was unveiled here on Feb. 6.

    "Genki-kun" the bull was born on a farm in Tsuyama, Okayama Prefecture, western Japan, in 1998. In October that year, when he was about six months old, the nearby Yoshii River burst its banks during a typhoon, flooding the farm and carrying Genki-kun out into Japan's Seto Inland Sea. Several days later, the young bull was found alive on Ki Island, about 90 kilometers away, though many other cows had died or disappeared.

    Genki-kun the "miracle cow" achieved a certain celebrity status after his ordeal, and he was put out to pasture at Okayama Farmers Market North Village park in Shoo, Okayama Prefecture, instead of being sent to the slaughterhouse as had been planned. In the ensuing years, the bull had many visitors who wanted to be as lucky and robust as him, and even had songs made about him and a Shinto shrine built in his honor.

    Genki-kun is seen in life at Okayama Farmers' Market North Village park in Shoo, Okayama Prefecture, in this provided photo.

    Genki-kun passed away from old age in January 2020. He was 21 years old, equivalent to 105 in human terms.

    After the bull's death, the town called far and wide for donations to pass on his story to the next generation. Eventually, about 8.46 million yen (about $80,190) was raised from individuals and companies to commission the Genki-kun bronze, unveiled at a Feb. 6 ceremony in front of some 50 locals at the farmers' market park.

    The statue measuring about 120 centimeters high stands astride a stone plinth meant to evoke the rocky island shore where the bull washed up all the way back in October 1998, and the entire monument is around 143 cm tall.

    Shoo Mayor Junji Mizushima told ceremony attendees, "Genki-kun showed us tremendous strength, courage, and how precious life is. Right now, the town is having a tough time because of the coronavirus, but Genki-kun will be right here, encouraging us."

    A mother and child, the latter holding an "ema" tablet with an illustration of Genki-kun the bull, pose for a photo with a statue of the famous bovine at Okayama Farmers' Market North Village park in Shoo, Okayama Prefecture, on Feb. 6, 2021. (Mainichi/Kazuki Iwamoto)

    Rie Namba, a 45-year-old working in the health care sector in Tsuyama who was there with her two sons, told the Mainichi Shimbun that she had come to feed Genki-kun when he was alive. She added, "I was moved by the statue. I hope my sons can get some of (Genki-kun's) good luck so they thrive."

    (Japanese original by Kazuki Iwamoto, Okayama Bureau)

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