People on my trips often comment on how few dogs they see in Japan – by that I think they mean what they might consider as “real” dogs; Red Setters with dribbling jowls bounding across parkland to fetch a ball, Labradors rolling around in the grass, perhaps even the ugly and menacing presence of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier outside the local newsagents; rather than the commonly carried or carted-around yelping little creatures so often seen in urban Japan – I have nothing against Chihuahuas, by the way.
Japanese dogs are possibly the most spoilt canines on the planet and some of those yapping little creaturemajigs certainly have the attitude to go with it – and the clothing! This past winter was a long, cold one which saw the latest in doggy fashion ranges hit the streets of hip Tokyo. I have been here for many years but I just couldn’t help notice cooly-clad dogs everywhere these past months – shades, lederhosen, dungarees, t-shirts, hair bands, bows, shoes, Hello Kitty jackets – you name it, someone’s dog was wearing it!
Many of the local pooches even seem to have lost the will to move of their own accord, being transported in doggy carts or special doggy hold-alls, which are particularly comfortable and convenient when tackling the insanely busy Tokyo hotspots.
In the UK a dog is certainly considered part of the family, but in Japan, it may even enjoy the status of most important member – older Japanese women are often seemingly far more concerned about grooming their pooches and showering them with more love and affection than their own husbands! And the dogs age better for it! So it is hardly surprising that there are dozens of doggy salons to be found across town catering for the owners needs.
The one breed that never fails to attract the attention of my travellers is the beautiful Shiba (see below) – often described as husky-like and fox-like in appearance, with the controlled serenity of a cat. Unlike many native Japanese breeds such as the Akita and the Tosa wrestling dogs from Shikoku Island, this dog is not attributed to any particular area of the country. The Shiba can be spotted all over Japan and for me is the classiest canine on the streets of Japan – even without the bows and ribbons! Not that I find other breeds laughable but…well…, ok, let’s just say that Chihuahuas don’t like me and the feeling is mutual.