IF you hear the sound ‘buhii-buhii’ in the streets of Hirafu, chances are Rum the pot-bellied pig is not far away.
That’s the sound Japanese use for a pig’s ‘oink-oink’, and Rum’s known for sounding off as she waddles the streets alongside her master, Katsumi Uchimaru.
The five-year-old pig – or ‘buta’, in Japanese – has for three years been the mascot for Hirafu’s Zoo outside the Alpen Hotel.
A favourite in Hirafu, Rum is forever stopping tourists in their tracks, dumbfounded and laughing as they watch her loyally follow Katsumi-san the way a dog would heel to its master.
You can also hear Katsumi-san shout out commands to the obedient Rum – ‘abunai’ (danger) when she walks too close to the road, and ‘oide’ (come here) when she wanders too far away.
“Rum’s intelligence is about that of a three-year-old human,” Katsumi-san said. “She’s not had official training, but she can still sit and shake hands.”