Pet Culture in Japan

  • 3 min read
Pet Culture in Japan

With the rise in popularity of cat cafes, shibas, and the many animal islands located in Japan, one might wonder what it’s like to own a pet there. Is it different from what we’re used to in the West? What kinds of pets do people own in Japan, and what kinds of laws exist around them?

Over the last few decades, the pet industry in Japan has grown to be worth more than 1.4 trillion yen. This includes both private pet adoptions from large, big-name pet stores and the many popular pet accessories one can see adorning pets on the streets of Tokyo. Given Japan's difficulties dealing with a declining birth rate, it makes sense that the number of pets in Japan now outnumbers the number of children. Talk about cat and dog moms and dads! Of those pets, cats (neko) have recently overtaken dogs (inu) as the most popular household pets, with an estimated 9.6 million homes owning a cat and 8.5 million owning a dog. Compare that to 69 million homes in the US owning dogs, with 45 million owning cats.

Pet Culture in Japan

The types of pets don’t stop there, however. Like in the US, reptiles are also popular pets, from lizards to geckos to snakes, not to mention small birds, fish, and turtles. One of Japan's more peculiar pet types is insects! A popular choice for young boys, stag beetles are one of the most common.

The laws surrounding pets in Japan start at the national level and can extend all the way down to the municipal level. This includes how and when pets need to be registered, how often they need to be vaccinated, which vaccinations they need, and in the case of exotic pets, whether you’re even allowed to own them! When visiting one of the popular pet store chains like Aeon Pet, Coo and Riku, or Kojima, you may be surprised to learn that you're just as likely to find a 410,000-yen newborn chihuahua as you are a rhesus monkey. If you’re used to browsing Instagram and other social media (and the algorithm points you in that direction), you might have even seen some videos of Japanese pet owners sharing videos of bushbabies, hedgehogs, exotic birds, or even elderly Japanese men taking their land tortoises for a walk through the streets of Tokyo.

Pet Culture in Japan

To some, it might appear that pets in Japan (at least in major cities) are seen more as accessories than family members, but the same can be said wherever you travel. Just like a lot of things about Japanese culture, Japanese people take pet ownership seriously, hence the booming accessory industry and the emergency vet line that can call a doctor straight to your door. In the end, Japan is a very pet-friendly place where pets are loved and cherished. What's more, you just might encounter a tortoise while out on a stroll!


About the author:

Kevin KilcoyneKevin Kilcoyne

The spark that lit Kevin Kilcoyne’s interest in Japanese culture began in elementary school through a friendship with his then classmate Keisuke. Since then, that passion has evolved and bloomed to encompass more than just video games and manga, leading Kevin to live in Japan as a participant of the JET program. During his time in Japan, Kevin sought out as many foods as he could, the experiences and taste memories lingering long after they had gone. Now he is forging a path to link his passions for Japanese food, history, and visual culture and is planning for his return to live in Japan once again. For now, you can find Kevin on Instagram (@waruishouten) where he posts his photography and illustration work. Keep an eye out for more posts and updates as Kevin delves more deeply into his passions for writing and food!

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