Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How much for that doggy in the window?

How can you resist a face like this?

Look at those round black eyes. That button nose. That soft snow white fur.

Japanese people see this and go ga-ga. Hypnotized by cuteness, they open their wallets, turn them upside down and shake. Money blows away.

So it goes when it comes to pets in Japan. Japan is world famous for its culture of cuteness, and Lord knows there's nothing cuter than puppies.

Take me home with yooooou!

Pet stores here are filled with purebred animals fetching top dollar. I simply could not believe it the first time I went in to a Japanese pet store and saw that all the animals cost several hundred dollars, and many well over $1,000.

Even the cats!

For a while I had a sort of obsession with an orange flat-faced Exotic cat I dubbed "Smooshy." Smooshy's price tag was 98,000 yen — $980 or so. Every time I went to the Fuji Grand department store, I'd stop in to pay Smooshy a visit. I swear that cat was there for three months. Cooped up in that cage all that time. I always wondered when there'd be a Smooshy sale, since obviously no one wanted to pay so much for that cat. But there was never a Smooshy sale, and then one day Smooshy was gone. I wondered if someone finally adopted her or if she fell victim to a darker fate.

I read a Reuters article a while back about how Japanese people usually don't adopt animals from pet shelters. There's a very strong "brand name" mentality here where people really don't tend to buy generic or used goods, and I think that extends to animals as well. Who wants to save some throw-away mutt when you can have a purebred one from the pet shop? That makes me sad.

Japan has had a declining birthrate for years, which is one of the country's major social dilemmas. It seems that rather than have children a lot of people just adopt dogs instead. This Japan Times article says that since 2003, there have been more pets than children under age 16 in Japan. Last year there were 6 million more pets than children.

People really do treat the dogs like children, too. Japanese pet stores have an unbelievable selection of dog outfits, and it seems like nearly every dog I see out for a walk is wearing a shirt. Given the importance the Japanese place on fashion and personal appearance, perhaps this isn't too surprising.

I mean check out some of these outfits:

Every dog's gotta have a little black dress!

Yes, it's a yukata! For a dog!

Obligatory Engrish T-shirt


For some I think the dogs become just an accessory as part of their overall fashion statement.

There are even special cakes, muffins, and other sweets for these pooches.

Granted, Americans have been known to overindulge their pets, too. No doubt. When I worked for the newspaper I actually featured a lady who opened up a pet spa offering pet massage. You could get your dog groomed there using special fancy pants aroma therapy shampoos. Another lady I interviewed started her own homemade gourmet dog biscuit shop. So it's not just the Japanese. But, I do think that as a whole, Japanese pets are a lot more spoiled.

But I guess when you're paying that much for a pup, you're gonna treat it like royalty.

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