Japan’s Pampered Pets

Not only is pet ownership on the rise in Japan, so too are the lengths at which the Japanese will go to too pamper their beloved pets.

In January 2007, Japan’s Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, conducted a survey in which it was discovered that were 24.5 million dogs and cats in Japan in 2006. Ten years ago, in 1996, the pet population was only 17.9 million. This means that there has been a 37% or 6.6 million increase in the amount of dogs and cats being owned in Japan within those ten years.

Since most Japanese families are only having one child, their desire to pamper their pets has increased. This has resulted in numerous businesses developing in the hopes of cashing in the pets needs and wants.

Chibagin Research Institute has estimated that $13.8 billion per year is spent on services and products for Japanese pets.

Just as in New York and California, small dogs have been all the rage in Japan. In 2006, there were 500,000 dogs that were registered at the Japan Kennel Club. Of these dogs, 51% were small dogs such as Chihuahuas, miniature dachshunds, and toy poodles.

Ayako Sakemi, a 50 year old housewife in Saitama near Tokyo, whose grown children have left home already, has three poodles that each cost her $1,300.

“I love toy poodles. They’re clever and have a nice personality, very cheerful. They are just like my daughters and need lots of care.”

It’s this kind of mentality that has caused a boom in the pet business in Japan over the past few years. One such successful business is Wanwan Neverland, a mini pet boutique mall in Tokyo’s Ginza district which opened in 2004 and is owned by Yuki Nozawa who quit her job as a wedding planner to open up her own pet business.

The Wanwan Neverland has four levels, each containing a myriad of options for both dogs and their owners. A café is on the first level and it is here that dogs can choose a meal from six different menu items. Their owners have their own menu too.

The next two floors contain toys and organic food for dogs. There are also unique items such as an L-shaped, $27 toilet designed for male dogs who spend most of their time inside the home. The L shape helps the dog to lift its leg without making a mess.

Other items include designer clothes and accessories for the fashion conscience dog and their owner.

Nozawa explains, “Long-haired dogs are better off with a dress to prevent molting. Clothing prevents cooling disorders from air conditioners in summer.”

A fur coloring service is also available to those dogs who prefer to be free of clothing.

Just like in the USA, hotels that cater for pets are also on the rise. In 2005, Pet Inn Royal, the largest animal hotel in Japan, opened its doors at the Narita Airport. They cater specifically for cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets, and hamsters.

An average night’s stay will run a pet owner somewhere between $33 and $165 per night. This includes a luxury suite with a king-sized mattress. Each room also has a air purifier and an air conditioner.

The general manager of the hotel, Chiyo Sakurai, says: “People see their dogs as their partners or part of their family, and there is an increasing demand for a high-standard service.”

Most pets spend about five days at the hotel and have a variety of spa services, such as massages or mud packs, from which to choose.

“A long stay can be stressful, and these treatments are popular,” says Sakurai.

Because of the pet care boom, Japan’s technology whizz kids have started designing high tech gear to help caring for a pet much easier. For example, pet feeding stations that are controlled remotely have been manufactured and sold by AOS Technologies since 2002. This technologically advanced feeding machine stores and dispenses both food and water for a pet that has been left home alone and is controlled via a computer or cell phone. The latest model, which retails between $400 and $570 each, has a video camera installed so that the pet’s owners can keep an eye on their pet.

Automobile giant Honda has developed a special model of the Vamos small utility van. Honda has included stain-resistant and odor-eliminating seats as part of these dog friendly vehicles.

The Japanese know have the opportunity to purchase a burial plot for themselves and their pet through Ohnoya, a leading funeral service company in Tokyo. The burial plots are called “with pet” and allow for both pet owners remains and their pets remains to be buried together. Over 180, 1.2-square-meter “with pet” burial plots have been sold so far, with a cost of $7,200 each.

Photo Credit: dlisbona

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