JIN-426 -- Dog Day Afternoon

The 'JIN' Japan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends
in Japan.
Issue No. 426 Wednesday August 8, 2007 TOKYO

*****OUT NOW J@PAN INC MAGAZINE'S SUMMER ISSUE*****
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Dog Day Afternoon

It has been the case for a few years now that dogs in Japan are
ceasing to be man's best friend and are defecting to become
woman's best pal. Or at least favorite accessory. Little doggies
dolled up with frilly collars and cute ribbons peeping out of
Louis Vuitton handbags are a regular sight in many of Japan's
urban and suburban centres. Dog salons offering shampoos,
manicures and massages for posh pooches have expanded, and
a luxury hotel for pets to stay in while the owners are away
opened in Narita, 2005 (http://www.petinn-royal.jp/index_e.html).
Most recently a pet products company has made plans to launch a
nursing home for elderly dogs charging owners US$800 a month to
look after their pets once they become too old and infirm to
handle (or too incontinent to risk putting in a designer
handbag).

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With such services already available, it comes as no surprise
really that it is now possible to rent a dog. And what better to
do on a sunny afternoon than go down to Odaiba (a large island of
reclaimed land in Tokyo famous for its malls and leisure
attractions), and rent a cute little doggie to potter around
with? Or there is another shop in Gotanda called 'Wanko' that
offers dogs at the slightly cheaper rate of 1000 yen an hour
or 5000 yen for the day. Apparently this service has been
available for quite a few years but it appears to be undergoing
a second wave of expansion.

A few weeks ago I was introduced to the Odaiba dog rental shop
by some friends. We went down with the intention of hiring a dog
for a few hours while we strolled around. However, during July and
August it is considered too hot to actually take the dogs for a
walk—it was however possible to a hire a dog to take to the
doggie cafe next door where, under the A/C it could enjoy a steak
salad washed down with a 'puppychino.' A friend pointed out that
it is a bit odd that the limitations for puppy rental are decided
by the date and not the temperature. A good point, but I think
there are probably odder things about it. And yet, is there a
moral problem?

I'm not sure. On the one hand if one accepts the general
principle that it is OK for animals to provide humans with
company, aesthetic pleasure and amusement, as a regular pet
does, how is it any worse to have dogs rented out? Moreover, to
make the dogs commercially viable they must be kept clean, well
fed and relatively happy. Because of their value the dogs are
less likely to be left in cars or neglected by owners who have
grown tired of them. However, there is an issue with bonding—
having serial owners it must be confusing for the animal as to
who its masters are but presumably the store's employees build
up a relationship with the dogs. But can the stores be seen in
any way as pimps, renting out dogs for cheap thrills as some
bloggers suggest? This would probably be barking up the
wrong tree. A more level headed blogger's experience of
renting a dog in Odaiba can be found at:
http://richardjackson.org/?p=70

While dog rental is not unique to Japan, being possible in Europe
and in the US, it does seem to be much more common here. This
is largely because of cute dogs' social symbolism as an accessory
among fashionable ladies. But this whole trend may well be a
symptom of Japan's demographic issues. With more and more
young single people opting not to have children, pets are
increasingly in demand. Hence the pet food market, and of
course the niche pet rental businesses are lapping it up. Back
in December Andrew Foster of Matthews International Capital
Management told Reuters that 'Even as Japan's birthrate is below
its replacement rate with one child in a household, people are
bringing in a pet and are lavishing expenditures on their pets to
the point where the expenditures are not unlike on a second
child.'

In 2005 the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) reported that
shipment of pet foods into Japan totalled over 243 billion yen,
and that the specialized pet food market (including such products
as dog toothpaste and obesity diets) was a major growth sector.
It is also a sector dominated by 60% foreign imports although,
domestic manufacturers seem to be more attuned to the cuter side
of the market. Sanrio, the creators of Hello Kitty recently came
out with a luxury dog-house completed with thousands of crystal
beads and a Hello-Kitty shaped cushion retailing for roughly
US$31,500. It makes you wonder what's coming next? A Snoopy-
shaped car for cats? Mickey Mouse funeral parlours for gerbils?
Either way, from renting dogs to pampering cats, the market here
has certainly been let off its leash.

By Peter Harris
Chief Editor, J@pan Inc magazine

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++EVENTS
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RidgeRunner Niseko
International Cricket Competition 15-17 September 2007

This is your invitation to three days of fun at an
international cricket tournament in Niseko being held to
the benefit of the Tyler Foundation for Childhood Cancer.

Cricketing legend Dennis Lillee will be attending the event
which is being co-hosted by the Higashiyama Prince Hotel and
includes two days of cricket, a golf match and charity
dinner dance and auction.
For more information, and the chance to win a
dinner with Dennis,

please visit www.ridgerunner.jp/cricket
or contact Simon Jackson
(simon@rad-development.com, 011-876-3704)

------------------- Tokyo Sinfonia--------------------

Under director Robert Rÿker
Tokyo Sinfonia, Tokyo's premier chamber orchestra, is to
treat audiences to a series of performances at Oji Hall, Ginza:

14th September - Symphonies for Strings - Beethoven
Grosse Fugue for Strings, Op. 133
Symphony in C Major (from Op.29)

12th December - Symphonies for Strings - Mozart
Adagio and Fugue for Strings, KV 495
Symphony for Strings in D Major (from KV.593)

Place: Oji Hall, Ginza
Price: Y6000 (single) Y10,000 (pair)
Email: tokyosinfonia@gol.com
Tel: (03) 3588 0738

++PLUS: AUGUST SPECIAL EVENT
17th August () French Serenade dinner-concert at the
Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ)
Aperitif, Petit Suite (Debussy)
Entrée, Tzigane (Ravel) featuring Tomoko Joho as violin soloist
Valses Nobles et Sentimentales (Ravel)
Dessert, Pelleas et Mélisande (Fauré)
Dinner & concert from 6.30pm, Y6,900
For Reservations (required), kindly email the Tokyo Sinfonia:
tickets@tokyosinfonia.com or phone us at (03) 3588 073

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