On pets

At the request of a reader, I’m writing about pets today.

The first thing that jumps out at me when considering pets in Japan is the lack of space. Everything is smaller here, except for apples and grapes, which are enormous. The roads are narrow. Apartment living is popular, and while most families with kids at school seem to live in houses, backyards are generally small where they exist.

The other thing that seems important is the concept of cuteness. chihuahuaThere is an idea that small is cute, and big is not. In fact, this idea is not reserved for pets, but is also applied to the human face – but only for girls? Rachel and Jun do a good investigation of this. In short, it’s considered attractive for girls to have a ‘small face,’ and once when a Japanese guy was trying to tell me how beautiful I was, he said, ‘Why is your face so small!?’ It was a compliment, but my first reaction was not to take it as one.


Hiko-nyan, the mascot of Hikone Castle in Shiga Prefecture. There is an adult inside that suit.

There is a clear discrepancy between the fact that although Japanese people seem to think the smaller it is, the cuter it is, and yet they find Hiko-nyan adorable.

As seen in this video by my favourite Japanese comedian (it’s not his best), people find chihuahuas and toy poodles really cute. The Shiba Inu is also a popular dog, and you see the odd pug.

Where do people keep their pets? Well, for those who own a house or whose apartment building allows pets (many don’t), small dogs seem to live inside. Those people with bigger dogs sometimes have kennels outside, and usually the dogs are tied up. As far as I know, people with other pets seem to keep them inside, and they have everything: cats, rabbits, hamsters, turtles, fish… one of my students told me she has a hedgehog? Another reckons he’s got a cockroach. Far and away, though, dogs and cats are the most popular pets.

IMG_0982When you walk around in Japan, in my experience, you are more likely to walk in vomit left by a drunk person than you are to walk in anything left by a dog. (Especially if you go to the station.) Every time I go for a walk, I see people walking their dogs, and they are all pretty diligent about picking up after them. Cats are less
controlled, and this is less about their toilet habits than that you see them on the street every day. Whether the cats I’m always seeing are strays or not I don’t know, but they’re usually not interested in meeting people.

When it comes to laws about pets in Japan, according to this website, you have to register dogs, but not cats. Dogs also have to have a rabies vaccine once a year.

Japan also has places you can go if you like animals, but can’t keep one, for oh deerwhatever reason. There are cat cafes, dog cafes, owl cafes, rabbit cafes, and even a goat cafe in Tokyo. Also a penguin bar. You can find towns and whole islands that seem to be at least half populated by deer, cats or rabbits. There are zoos, too, but I don’t think they’re particularly good towards the animals: concrete enclosures, large animals in not-so-large places, etc.

Well, that’s all I’ve got to say about that. Questions? Comments?


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