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Tokyo-nites go crazy over pooch pampering

Love me, love my dog. Decked in designer outfits with crystal studded collars, pooches in Tokyo are enjoying the pampered lifestyle, courtesy of their trend setting owners.

And in Business Ideas this week, join me, Melanie Yip, as I take a look at canine commerce in Tokyo.

The people in Japan are known to be trend-setters. Fashion, telecommunication gadgets¡­..and now, even the doggie craze has set in.

This September, Animal Planet's documentary on "Tokyo Dogs" reveals some interesting and unusual business enterprises that have sprung up in the city to cater to dog-loving Japanese consumers.

Antoine Lassaigne is the director of the documentary and he tells me what sparked the doggie craze in Tokyo.

AL: Japanese people are very sentimental people, I think. And they are very shy in other ways, you know. In the company of pets, they can show their affections, and be sentimental. In the big city, it is natural that they are stressed, especially in a society like Tokyo. It is quite hard and tough. And when they show their affections to the pets, they get close to their pets, and express the love they have.

Tokyo is a city full of trend setters, but also a city that is congested. Most apartments mushrooming in the city are built around space constraints, and so you can guess that small dogs like chihuahuas will be the favorite choice for dogs.

And the Japanese, well known for their inventive mindsets, have ventured into interesting business enterprises like spas for dogs, catering for dogs, and even a hotel that organizes wedding ceremonies for a doggy couple. Antoine shares a happy moment.

AL: It is a hotel two hours from Tokyo, and people go there for a wedding. And it is quite funny because in this hotel, there are only three suites, rooms, bathrooms, and beauty salons for people and dogs. And there is also a dining room. Everything in the hotel was prepared to cater to dogs. Even the Jacuzzi, the meals are prepared for the dogs. We can go with the dogs to enjoy the Jacuzzi. And the owner of the hotel is crazy about dogs. He decided later to offer wedding formalizations for dogs. So he built a chapel at the back of the garden. When we filmed the wedding, there were about 20 people, and dogs in front of the chapel. We went through the religion of having a priest as well. The priest would say things like "would you like to share the rest of your life with the other dog", it is like a real wedding. The two dogs, male and female, then share the wedding cake as a symbol of their union.

To top off the happy moment is the exchanging of wedding bands, and a toast to the happy couple.

AL: They have no ring of course, but they put a collar around each dog like a ring to the finger. And later, they will share a cup of milk. In the Shinto religion, when you marry, you celebrate the union with a cup of sake. Here it is replaced with a cup of milk. It is like a real wedding you see for people. The little female Chihuahua is in a kimono costume, and the male Chihuahua will be in a traditional black and white Japanese wedding costume.

While practicality is the order of the day, does Antoine find some of the canine commerce ideas weird, and do Tokyo dog owners pamper their pets too much?

AL: I think it is not ridiculous, it is only the expressions of affection that the owners have. I think it is good for owners to show their affections, where there is no inhibition. But there are some people who think that the idea is ridiculous. For instance, in France, when I showed my friends the edited version of the video, there are some people who see the idea as stupid, or there are some who find the idea amazing. But for myself, I think that these people are interesting because they love dogs, and they show it. They have no inhibition about this. When they try to do something, they try to do their best. For example, if you want a dog but you can¡¯t have a dog, you can rent a dog. You know, they have a solution for everything. I think it is in the Japanese mind to find a solution for things, and they are very pragmatic about this. They will always try to find a solution for things.

Given that trends are seasonal in nature in Japan, what's Antoine's take on next season's most fashionable pet in Tokyo?

AL: It is always so amazing in Japan. Maybe next year, they may do the same for rabbits or who knows. For instance, it is quite funny for rabbits because dogs and cats are common, and now, they love rabbits. I know of three newspapers that cater to pets and rabbit owners. So next year, maybe they might want to do the same for rabbits. Who knows?

Antoine Lassaigne, Director of the documentary "Tokyo Dogs"

That's Business Ideas for you this week. Join me at the same time, next week. For Radio Singapore International, I'm Melanie Yip.

Photos courtesy of Animal Planet.
2005. All Rights Reserved
Do not reproduce without permission.

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