The rumors are false; Koo-chan is alive and well. He hasn't been featured in a new commercial for quite some time, however, so people started to fear the worst.
I was struck by how similar Koo-chan's story was to that of Gidget, the Taco Bell chihuahua:
As Snopes explains, in 2000, Taco Bell simply decided to end that particular advertising campaign and go in a new direction. But when the chihuahua commercials stopped, fans worried that the dog had died.
At a time when contentious disputes over military bases and beef tariffs threaten to tear the crucial American-Japanese alliance apart, it's helpful to remember the things both sides have in common. Like concern for the well-being of celebrity chihuahuas.