The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Going to the dogs




















Yes an old cliche…but a good one!

Happy new year!

This year is the year of the rat which I hope is better than it sounds.

I was born in the year of the dog, which according to a Chinese horoscope book I read once told me that I have basically nothing to look forward to after the age of 14. My best years are far behind me by that account and everything else is in the process of going to the dogs.

Talking of dogs, did you know there are approximately 13 million pet dogs in Japan. With a population of 127 million and assuming a family size of say four people that means almost half of all families in Japan have a dog. Of course some families have two or three or four animals; but then again some families have two or three or six or seven people so as maths is not my strongest subject we`ll keep it about 50% shall we?

What is true however it that is more than the number of children under the age of twelve in the country… a lot of dogs..more than that, it is a lot of small dogs because toy dogs are the latest “boom” or fad in Japan.

Children of course are not; with a birthrate of less than one child per woman in Tokyo many reports suggest that pets are taking the place of children in the affections of women and even men.

There may be some truth to this but as I look around it looks more like just another mindless fashion fad, like a handbag. Having a cute pet dog and what the “brand” of dog you own is are more important than its wishes or perhaps companionship. I don`t doubt that the owners love the animal, they certainly spend a lot of money on them with must-haves like: clothes, beds, special meals, jewelery, grooming, massages, vacations in special doggy resorts and even therapists creating a business that is worth an estimated 1.5 trillion Yen a year. That is TRILLION! But I fear that if the fashion changes as it did last year for the Chihuahua (when the company that used one in a commercial, thus creating the crazy, was found to be less than reputable) many of these “beloved” pets will be discarded and new models, more acceptable to the owners` peers will quickly replace them.

That is not the least of the cruelties being meeted out to Japan`s cannines though. Obesity is becoming a problem with owners giving dogs treats and then carrying them around in designer bags and pushchairs so that the animals never get any exercise. Worst though, by far is the fact, that just like any other consumable, pet dogs are being mass-produced; often using dangerous and immoral breeding practices.

Certain special colourings or other traits, that people are prepared to pay a premium for, are being produced my mating dogs with their own litters or within a litter. This in-breeding is making dogs that, whilst on the surface are cute, lovable and profitable, are genetically moribund.  Japanese dogs now have some the highest instances of genetic disorders in the world and yet these “puppy-mills” are not, as yet, illegal.

I didn`t know all this until I was doing some research for a picture caption for my new look website. But it was quite shocking and I thought I`d tell you about it.

The new website is (actually not that different just some new pics and a more reportage feel) anyway it is nearly finished, next few days perhaps.

That`s all for now.

Talk soon.



7 responses

  1. Andy

    If anything tainted Zoe’s view of Japan it was the “pet shop” we saw in Kanazawa the morning after we left you. Rows of small glass fronted boxes with several dogs crammed in each box. A pick’n’mix for range for somebodies handbag perhaps ?

    Love the slideshow on the website – the basis of an exhibition when you get back here ?

    January 10, 2008 at 9:00 am

  2. Pingback: dailyhoro scope » Going to the dogs

  3. Really like the new look site and have had your slideshow on view for our shin nen kai. Went down very well!

    January 12, 2008 at 8:25 am

  4. Thanks Nick, that is a real compliment. We must catch up soon. Sorry scrabble not my thing!! but if you can think of some interesting time for me to come across to Nagoya, see you and have some fun, I may (wifey permitting) be on the next train.

    Andy, like the English the Japanese love their dogs but I agree the puppy vending machine style can be a little off-putting to those that see it for the first time. Rest assured though that as long as fashions do not change the animals are seriously loved by the owners. It`s the breeders that are the bad guys. but here we get into a chicken and egg thing. Thanks also for the comment on the new site. Stay tuned it is about to get a lot more different and hopefully even better, as soon as I can work out how to configure the slide show function correctly.
    Talk to you soon

    January 12, 2008 at 1:42 pm

  5. Wait until you meet the people from the shin nen kai to make a judgement like that (0-0)V

    January 13, 2008 at 2:26 pm

  6. Tomo

    I did not you were born in the year of dog. Either did I!

    I can comprehend what you feel about recent fad on small dogs. I don’t like this trend indeed. I would, however, like to have beagle in the near future.

    I forget to show you about the photo Competition about Matsuri. The address below is the website.

    I hope it will help.


    January 17, 2008 at 2:03 pm

  7. Pingback: Animal Rights «

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