TT-630 -- Rare Animals as Pets in Japan -- e-biz news from Japan

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, September 18, 2011, Issue No. 630


- What's New -- Rare Animals as Pets in Japan
- News -- Tax hikes in 2012
- Candidate Roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback -- More on Drug Mule acquittal
- News Credits

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Taking advantage of the long weekend and with the weather
still being so hot and all, it seemed like a good idea to
take a cycle ride through the local park, which for us is
Yoyogi Koen. The thing that strikes you about almost any
urban park in Tokyo is the number of people taking pets for
a walk, versus kids. No surprise really, given that there
are more dogs (in 2009 12.3m) than kids under the age of 12
in Japan.

You get to see some interesting pets being taken for a walk
in the park. Yoyogi is a favorite for tortoise owners, and
there is one lady who religiously takes her tortoise for a
walk every morning -- we always see her in the same spot,
even after an hour's work out... ;-). Actually, the ponds
in Yoyogi Koen are also a favorite for pet owners whose
turtles have outgrown their apartments, to be set free. The
reptiles get discovered in late Fall when the park
maintenance people drain the ponds.

We've also seen ferrets, all kinds of birds, small monkeys,
and other kinds of pets at the park. This got us to
thinking about the Japanese passion for unusual pets and
pets in general.

The most popular pets for Japanese are dogs then cats. The
Japan Pet Food Association (JPFA) reckons that in 2009
there were 12.3m dogs and 10m cats. The Ministry of Health
says that there were 6.88m registered dogs in the same
year, so obviously many dogs sold are not registered. Nor,
as we found out, are they microchipped. According to the
authority controlling such things, AIPO, only 369,860 dogs
in Japan were microchipped as of March 2011, a compliance
rate of just 0.25% of the overall population.

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

We did some research on the more unusual creatures
available for sale, most of which come from online pet
stores. A popular but endangered animal is the Slow Loris,
(Nycticebus coucang), a nocturnal, tree-climbing primate
native to Southeast Asia. These little guys are really
cute and for that reason are most often bought by women.
Probably if those women knew that the species has a toxic
bite and that they are cruelly de-toothed by pet traders
prior to sale, they wouldn't support the trade. At present
you can buy a Slow Loris for JPY300,000 to JPY400,000.

Another very cute animal that is zooming up the popularity
charts is the Fennec Fox from the Arabian Peninsular and
North Africa. The Fennec Fox weighs just 1.5kg and has huge
15cm+ ears that make it look like the Disney Stitch
character. These animals are not endangered, and in the USA
are actually one of only two types of fox that are approved
to be kept as a pet. They are reared by removing from the
mother at an early age, so as to restrain the development
of natural aggressive characteristics. After such rearing
they can apparently be kept in an apartment, much like a
dog or cat. You can buy Fennec Foxes for around JPY700,000
for a male and JPY800,000 for a female.

Other rare animals include Asian Small-clawed Otters (Aonyx
cinerea) for JPY700,000, Indian Star Tortoises (Geochelone
elegans) for JPY25,000 to JPY30,000, and Hercules stag
beetles from Central or South America for JPY50,000 to
JPY60,000. Now, these are the legally sold animals. There
are many instances of rare, illegal sales taking place in
Japan, but only interested collectors know of their

"Legally sold" doesn't mean legally procured. The problem
with the Japanese law is that there is a "home free"
aspect, allowing smugglers who having successfully gotten
past Customs are then able to go ahead and sell their
victims on the Internet. Even trying to get past Customs
is just a slap on the wrist. The Tokyo Today site has an
article from several years ago about the fact that smugglers
simply obfuscate the species description, and if the
animal is not on the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list of
900 endangered animals, then they are generally allowed
in. Further, so long as smugglers don't specifically lie
about having an animal, generally the most that happens to
them if they get stopped is that the animal is confiscated
and the smuggler gets off scot free. In 2008 there were
only 341 prosecutions of animal smugglers using Narita

The smuggling problem is endemic in Japan and the country
often features high on the list of preferred sales
destinations. Not just endangered species, almost anything
that moves is smuggled. For example, hermit crabs and stag
beetles. Three tons of hermit crabs are sold every year by
pet shops to kids, and most are apparently smuggled in.
Complicit in the trading of such vulnerable animals are a
small group of underground dealers, who are either one of
the 6,154 registered pet shops, or one of the approx. 6,500
"other" retailers who handle pets, or they are one of a
vast and unknown number of internet advertisers.

Although the law on animal protection and rules about the
sale of animals have been updated a number of times, the
problem is that animal protection is just not viewed by the
judiciary or police as a pressing issue, and so the laws
are vague and getting prosecutions is difficult. There are
sickening cases of animal torture by sadists who have
posted their acts on the internet, been caught, then let
off with suspended fines. In such an environment, it's
hard to imagine that the trade of rare animals is going to
change any time soon.

If you want to see some of the rare animals that can be
purchased online in Japan, here is a list of websites that
we found:

* Animal planning,
* Science factory,
* Inner city zoo Noah,
* Noah’s Ark,
* Bidders (Auction site),


Lastly, just a reminder to try out the excellent Tasmanian
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A little oak, light but balanced acidity from the low
temperature location, extremely drinkable, and just
JPY2,500 a bottle.

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+++ NEWS

- New tax hikes likely in 2012
- Tohoku tsunami paddies to convert to cotton
- Softbank commits US$200m to fast-growing mobile ad company
- SourceNext to sell what others give away for free
- 47,756 hit the ton -- age-wise

-> New tax hikes likely in 2012

The government Tax Commission has proposed taxing regular
employees, companies, and the sales of alcohol and tobacco
to partly fund the JPY13trn in reconstruction costs in
Tohoku. There was also a suggestion of raising consumption
tax, but PM Noda quickly killed that idea as his government
wants to reserve additional consumption tax for future
pensions and health care coverage. ***Ed: Either way you
look at it, things look grim for Japan's consumer economy
from next year. First the increase in income and corporate
taxes, then within 3 years we will have dramatically higher
consumption taxes.** (Source: TT commentary from,
Sep 9, 2011)

-> Tohoku tsunami paddies to convert to cotton

In a surprisingly fast move, a group of yarn/garment
manufacturers and an agricultural company have banded
together to create the Tohoku Cotton Project. Their
objective is to help farmers rehabilitate their salt-laden
rice paddies by planting cotton for some years, until
irrigation and time lower salt levels to a point where
rice can be planted again. Apparently cotton is able to
tolerate salt levels twice that of rice. Around 58,000
acres of rice farmland has been affected and will take 3
years or longer to remediate. (Source: TT commentary from, Sep 16, 2011)

-> Softbank commits US$200m to fast-growing mobile ad company

Bangalore-based InMobi, a mobile ad firm with access to
340m users in over 165 countries, has just received a
massive commitment of US$100m from Softbank within this
month, and another US$100m in April 2012. Apparently the
investment gets Softbank a minority stake in the Indian
firm, which Softbank's Masayoshi Son justifies by stating
that "The partnership will help Softbank become the No. 1
Internet company in Asia". ***Ed: Will be interesting to
see what special rights Son has bought himself with this
expensive purchase.** (Source: TT commentary from, Sep 16, 2011)

-> SourceNext to sell what others give away for free

Software retailer SourceNext is betting that it knows the
Japanese consumer market better than it knows itself, by
offering for sale ten new Android apps that users could
otherwise simply pick up off the Android Market. The plan
calls for the new Android apps to be distributed amongst
some thousands of retailers, presumably as CDs in shelfed
packages. The company appears to be looking for low-price
impulse sales in stores where customers are buying an
Android phone. ***Ed: It's a gutsy move, and given
SourceNext's previous successes with low-cost PC software,
who knows, they could compete with online distribution.
Stranger things have happened!** (Source: TT commentary
from, Sep 16, 2011)

-> 47,756 hit the ton -- age-wise

The Ministry of Health has announced that a record 47,756
people in Japan are now aged 100 or older. 87% of the
centenarians are women and the oldest is Chiyono Hasegawa,
who is 114. In light of a pension-collection fraud last
year, the Ministry has confirmed that all acknowledged
oldsters were in fact alive when the numbers were
collected. ***Ed: In 1999, Japan had just 11,346
centenarians, indicating a worrying trend that the
population of those of extreme age will probably climb
significantly for another 40 years -- when the dankai
generation finally passes through that age bracket.**
(Source: TT commentary from and AP, Sep 13,

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.



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In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
amplify our points, by email, to

In TT629 we covered a short story on a historic court
acquittal of a Jewish drug mule on the basis of expert
testimony from a US witness, testifying as to the
practices and mindset of the particular sect the man
belonged to. A reader now educates us as to some of the
background to this case and why it is so significant. We
certainly appreciate the feedback.

=> Reader says:

It is certainly a good thing you included a link to the
original article because your summary
of the article was poor. I found your choice of headline
particularly bothersome considering the landmark nature of
this case. The article points out that this was the first
time the testimony of a US law enforcement official was
accepted as evidence in a Japanese court yet you fail to
mention that point entirely. You also seem unaware of the
involvement of the local Jewish community on behalf of
the three young men.

*** We respond:

Thanks for reading. Within the limited scope of the news
extracts/comments, we used the words, "historic", "first",
"expert testimony from US witness"... so we don't think
anything of importance was missed here.

The fact that the Jewish community was deeply involved is
a common element in other similar cases, so while it was
important, it wasn't unique (although as you say, it may
have been pivotal in his acquittal). When UK citizen Nick
Baker was incarcerated on similar charges, the UK community
rallied and put tremendous pressure on the Japanese. We
believe the US expert testimony to be the real point of
note here and I have mentioned this, as brief as it is.

The reason we put links in the newsletter is so that people
can read in more detail what we have found and highlighted.
The intent of the news pieces is a short mention of
noteworthy news, nothing more and nothing less than that.

=> Reader replies:

The situation for these young men is different in so much
as their cultural context is so different due to their very
strict religious lifestyle which is not easily accommodated
in a Japanese prison.

Perhaps more importantly, in this case it was actually the
local Chabad rabbi, Mendi Sudakevich, whom they thought
they were supposed to be delivering something to, who
provided support to them and to various members of the
overseas community who traveled to Japan to support them
with their case.

Chabad is rather unique amongst the chassidic sects in that
they send rabbis out to all corners of the globe to set up
local "Chabad Houses" to provide support and community for
resident or visiting Jews. Since 2000, Chabad of Japan has
been providing a place for regular prayer minyans, holiday
services, kosher meals (impossible to get a kosher meal
retail here) as well as the full range of lifecycle events
according to the Orthodox Jewish tradition. Although Chabad
is an Orthodox sect, all Jews are made to feel welcome at a
Chabad House. Part of all this also includes visiting and
supporting Jews who find themselves on the wrong side of
the law in Japan.

As a side note, Chabad will be hosting a festive meal and
services for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, at the end
of September and full services for Yom Kippur and Sukkot in
October. Their website is


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