Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Nihon Ken Forum

I get asked a lot of questions pertaining to owning the Japanese breeds, and to be honest, I don't have enough time to deal with every request. Most people who find my blog have probably already found The Nihon Ken Forum but if not, you now have the link! It is a web forum dedicated to the native Japanese dog breeds, and is chock full of useful information. The members there are terrific, knowledgeable, and friendly, so stop by and become a member if you haven't already!
I've been on the forum for several years now, and I've picked the brains of the forum for loads of useful information and knowledge.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Good Breeders vs. Bad Breeders

I received a question on the blog concerning my export page. I started typing a reply, and it became a long one, so I'm posting it here.

"You've mentioned that you've worked with individuals as a translator looking to export breeds from Japan, in your experience, would you be able to recommended good breeders in Japan that you've come across?"

My first thought is that your definition of a good breeder, and mine, may be very different. I'm often looking for a specific type of dog for breeders overseas, so a good find would be an out cross line of dogs, quality type or working ability etc.

The honest truth is that in the Nihon Ken community here in Japan you will most likely not find a kennel that is a 'good breeder' according to the standards that most in North America and Europe apply.
So I guess then a simpler tack to take is defining a 'bad breeder'. For me a 'bad breeder' would be someone who knowingly sells unhealthy animals, does not breed for an ethical purpose, and lies or tries to rip people off.

I keep the term 'breeder' in quotation marks because the Nihon Ken community, led by the Japan Dog Preservation Society (NIPPO), is one that takes pride in amateurism, and discourages for profit activity. While there are professional Shiba and Akita kennels, the majority are amateur, and you will be hard pressed to find one that specializes in the medium sized breeds. 'Breeder' is a word that NIPPO members are not fond of, and they will usually bristle at being called one.

Going back to the point about a good vs. bad 'breeders', there is virtually no health/genetic testing done in Japan on the Japanese breeds. So, a pup you buy could be carrying any number of genetic issues. In the distant past when all the Nihon Ken were hunting dogs, breeding for function naturally culled out the dogs with bad hips, joints, hearts etc. Now that they are bred primarily for show, the end all is a dog that looks good, standing in the ring. This affects not only structure but temperament as well.

The Nihon Ken are not house pets, and most are kenneled outdoors their entire lives with no training whatsoever other than what is necessary to show in the ring (and some, not even that). They are not socialized, and are usually kenneled or crated singly, often in what would be described as bad (if not terrible) conditions by western standards. Ring temperament often translates into at least slightly dog aggressive dogs here in Japan, as a dog looks much more impressive when it is posturing at another dog.

Many kennels do not vaccinate their dogs, and do not give them monthly heartworm medication (filariasis is extremely common in Japan).

Simply put, most kennels here could be classified as back yard breeders overseas, with the difference being that the kennels here have extensive knowledge concerning standards, history, and breeding know how, as it pertains to their respective breeds. If you are looking for a 'breeder' that does health checks and is knowledgeable about health issues in their breed, trains their dogs, keeps them as companions, socializes their dogs, and houses them indoors, I would not have a single kennel in Japan I could recommend.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


After being woken up at 2am by Katana who wanted to be let out to the bathroom, I found it impossible to sleep. After a slightly grumpy few hours trying to kill time till sleep returned, dawn started creeping through my loft window. I watched for the next 30 minutes as this unfolded.

It was the most stunning dawn I have ever witnessed, and that there is an unfiltered photo, ladies and gents. I was in awe. The breeze was drifting in through the window, clouds rolled by, and I soaked it all in with a huge smile. Thank you insomnia.

Kachi (aka Katana) is doing great by the way. He's getting lankier, loves to play, and loves to cuddle. I really need to find a place for this guy to go to. It's either that or he turns into Baron's hunting buddy.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Becoming a NIPPO Judge

It is a long and painstaking journey to become a NIPPO judge, fraught with danger and sacrifice. Seriously. I get asked all the time by the members of my NIPPO branch to please sacrifice my soul and embark on this thankless road, but no. I don't think so.

Think of NIPPO as something like the NCAA in its dedication to amateurism. NIPPO judges and board members are not allowed to be professional breeders, and you're basically also not allowed to be a member of another breed club. It is also an unwritten rule that once you're a judge or board member, you cannot show your dogs at NIPPO shows. You are paid a pittance to travel to shows, it's basically a pro bono position, and the process requires you to attend many seminars, study work shops etc.

I'm a member of the Japan Kennel Club, the Kai Ken Aigokai, the Hokkaido Ken Hozonkai, and the Nihon Ken Hozonkai (NIPPO). While that in itself is not necessarily a problem, I like to show my dogs, and I intend to do so for as long as I'm able. There are some judges who don't even breed their respective specialty breeds anymore, or own any dogs. Some have not shown dogs for years, or maybe never had much experience breeding, owning, or showing in the first place. I do not intend to be one of those people. Maybe once I've amassed enough knowledge in all areas related to owning-showing-breeding-hunting-standards, I will consider becoming a judge. That is a long way off, and I'm not yet qualified to try on those shoes.

For anyone curious about what it takes to become a NIPPO judge...

One must be a NIPPO member for 3 consecutive years, after which, if your branch of NIPPO thinks you promising, you can become a 'Hojoin' (assistant). This involves helping ringside at regional shows, and attending some training classes. If you are deemed worthy and ripe, you then move on (after a non specified amount of time, but often a few years) to become a 'Kenshuin' (trainee). You will most likely be a Kenshuin for at least 3 years, attending regular work shops, helping at regionals, and taking tests. If you manage to pass the tests each year with acceptable grades, and you get a 70% (I think that was. the number) vote of confidence from the current judges, you move up to 'Fuku-shinsain' (assistant judge). Assistant judges are present to help the judges in the ring with their assessments at the nationals, and to judge at some regionals. After several years in this position, a magical nod from the board and the judges committee will promote you to 'Shinsain' (judge). There is a mandatory retirement age, though I've forgotten what that is (somewhere around 65 if memory serves me).

Once you've reached this portion of your arduous journey, prepare to be slandered, pressured, cajoled, and endure endless amounts of stress while judging other people's dogs, while selflessly giving of your time and energy. My respect to the gentlemen who have taken this path, all the NIPPO members who came before me, and those to come.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Available 4 Month Old Shikoku Male

I was asking around for outcrosses  to send overseas earlier last year, so every now and again kennels still send me information on possible candidates. Today I received some pictures of a 4 month old red sesame male that is available.

And his Dam is Kankoume (red sesame). He was born on the 12th of February.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

If The Kishu is Your Thing

If you're a fan of the breed, breeding it, or showing it, take a look at this female. It's not the greatest of videos, I know, and she is a little on the small end of the standard, but look at the balance, the lines, the angles, the head, the bone. She's a beautiful little girl.
I've seen some disappointing Kishu that are being shown overseas (and of course here as well), and while there are different types in the breed that you can breed toward, this is a good looking Kishu female.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Katana Go: Part 3

He's getting bigger by the day, and he's definitely a bundle of energy. He'd do best in a home with other dogs to play with. Seeing as he's a Hokkaido pup, he'll need a tolerant playmate! He pretty much just hangs out with Baron all day long, and they wrestle and chew on each other.

The latest update on my end is that I have a friend flying over to LA at the beginning of July, and she would be willing to transport this little guy for me if someone in the States is interested in him. This will shave quite a bit of cost off the shipping end of things!


Hime is an aka-goma (red sesame) female Shikoku I've owned for a while now, but due to the fact that I was holed up in Tokyo, she was with my good friend Ogawa-san over at Gotenyama Kennel . Now that I'm set up in my new place in the middle of nowhere, I went and picked her up at the end of April. We expected her to come into heat fairly soon, and as soon as I got her home, I realized (or Baron realized) she was already in heat. With no idea how many days in she was, I was at a bit of loss to decide what exactly to do.

Hime's been fairly unlucky when it comes to heats. Last heat, she had a split heat, so Ogawa-san had to take a guess at when to breed her, and I guess we got it wrong. The heat before that, she was bred, but then got lost in the mountains for a month, so that breeding didn't take either.

Now she's in heat, and while I'm figuring out what to do, I notice there's a bit of blood in her stool. Stools are still firm, so I wasn't too worried. Just figured it was the stress of being in heat, the new environment, and the food. Then a couple days later, all hell broke loose. She started hemorrhaging profusely, a very dark nasty smelling amount of blood. I've never seen parvo before, so that was my first guess. Thing was she'd been vaccinated just a few months prior, so while I was pretty certain it wasn't parvo, I had pups at the time and needed to be sure. I took her to the vet, and she wasn't doing well at all. We had her checked for parvo while out in the parking lot, and it came back negative, thank god.

Still, she was no longer mobile, very listless, and not able to keep anything in through either end of her body. We got her on an IV, and I took her home for the night. Bloodwork came back without showing much of anything, other than that she was very sick. The vet diagnosed HGE and told me to bring her back first thing in the morning. Hime's not exactly that fond of strangers, and I figured it would be less stressful if she didn't need to be hospitalized. It's only 10 minutes to the vet from my house anyway. We weren't sure she'd make it through the night.
Well come morning, she was still with us, so I took her to the vet. From there, I decided to leave her at the vet's since I was leaving for Rome the next day. The vet said she didn't think that Hime would pull through, but that she'd do her best. I figure that as dog owners it's our responsibility to do what we can, even if the odds are slim, and Hime was fighting so hard to stay alive.

I kept in contact with my vet throughout my trip, and while the first couple days were touch and go, Hime did pull through, and a bankrupting hospital bill later (lol) she was back home being her usual grouchy self. So note to anyone who notices any blood in their dog's stool, diarrhea, etc get it looked at sooner rather than later, as it could save your dogs life. Hime went from fine to dying within the course of a day.

Here she is taking a nap in the doorway after I brought her home, looking very gaunt.

She's put her weight back on, so I'll try and get some beauty shots soon for the blog.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Philippines!

I had a quick trip to Manila this month to drop off a Shikoku pup. It sure is a crazy city with a lot going on. I got to experience the full slew of transportation options, quite a bit of fun if you ask me. Thanks to my hosts for a great stay, and for keeping me EXTREMELY well fed. I'll see you again soon!

This is Sho, the first Shikoku in the Philippines.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Houshou Go

My favorite Kishu of all time, Houshou Go, a winner of the Prime Minister's Award at the NIPPO National. I'm in awe of the presence this dog had in the ring. Wish I could have seen him firsthand.

Japanese Names: Famous Samurai

Just put up a new list of names on

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Baron Can't Swim

Self explanatory. He did this for around 30 minutes while I played with the other dogs.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Japan Dog Export

Most everyone knows that I make a living as a translator, well mostly anyway. I live an unorthodox life that sees me juggle a lot of different hats, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Along the way, one of those hats ended up being helping export dogs from Japan. Due to the increase in volume of requests etc, I decided a few years back that it needed to be set up as a proper business (tax reasons and so forth).
So, while I've had that on the back burner for a while, the plan was there, and I even bought a domain and half constructed a site. It sat there in an embarrassing state for over a year, but now that I've got it almost completed, I'm making the official announcement. is up and running.

Take a look, and let me know what you think.

Tochigi Boar Dog Tournament

Back in the middle of April I was invited (that's putting it mildly) to attend a boar dog tournament. Due to it being 100's of kilometers away, and the fact that I'm not into penned training, I was not that into the idea. If there's an opposite of excited, that's how I felt.

But lo and behold, there are pictures of me there, so yes, I caved. There were people there that I wanted to meet, many of the best of the best of the boar hunters of Japan. I drove all the through the night, and arrived in the morning to... snow. It was 3 degrees celcius. Near the end of April! It was sleeting and raining, thank the gods I brought my full ensemble of hunting gear.

I got to see some impressive and not so impressive dogs. I had not entered Baron, but he was in the truck with me, and I ran into a gentleman who previously owned one of Baron's siblings. He was interested in seeing him in the ring, so I caved, again, and entered him.

There were some seriously badass gladiatorial boar in that ring, and with everything as it was, Baron did absolutely nothing in there. Talk about being taken down a peg. Here everyone's heard about Baron and I and the boar we've been taking, and booooom. To be fair, Baron's grown a bit soft, much more careful since this last hunting season started, especially on large boar, so I wasn't expecting much. I ran him in there again on a smaller boar, and he was all over it, so I guess that's that. I did have a real soul searching regarding the ethics and necessity of tournaments like this. One of the most impressive females I saw worked the boar wonderfully, never letting up the pressure, and coaxing it out of the underbrush. When she was done, I complemented her owner. He smiled and said that he hasn't been able to take many boar with her. Something about the way she hunts is just not working, but she's great on penned boar. Some dogs were just nuts, getting tossed around by the boar, but charging back in again regardless. Those would be dead dogs in the mountains.

There were some very impressive dogs though, and these hunters really know what they're talking about. I'm an amateur compared with these giants of the mountain, so I was happy to have the opportunity to pick their brains.

One of my good friends, Okabe-san of Tenro Kennel brought his Kai male Kuma to the tournament. Of the Kai there, he was the only one that put on a good showing. Hell, he did better than Baron! We're planning to use Kuma as the base for our future boar hunting Kai program. Later on a smaller boar, Kuma went right in to catch. He's a pretty gritty Kai.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


The NIPPO National will be held this year in Osaka on the 16-17th of November. Here are the coordinates for google maps 34.517165, 135.375410
The adddress is Osaka-fu, Izumiotsu-shi, Yunagi-cho 1-1 . The venue name is the Izumiotsu Phoenix Hiroba Here's the map.

I will be there, and as usual, if you are there, you get a translator for the day! If you love the Japanese breeds, this is the place to come see the best of the best in Shiba, Kishu, and Shikoku.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Dogs of Japan

This one's a photobook by renowned photographer Mitsuaki Iwago titled 'The Dogs of Japan'. It has pictures and some commentary on all the Japanese breeds, with a few sections on the lesser known breeds like the Kawakami and Minowa Shiba as well. Great photography, lots of dogs in this book. It still seems to be relatively easy to come by.

If anyone's interested in owning a copy, feel free to contact me at and I'll figure out how much the shipping etc will cost. This book will probably come to around 5000 yen with shipping to the US.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Game Cam 201305

I set up the game came next to a tree that is used as a rub by wild boar, in the mountains that I hunt. It was installed on the 27th of May, and I picked it up today, the 9th of June.

Camera angle wasn't all that great, and there were some strange pictures in there that I haven't been able to figure out yet.

Katana Go: Part 2

He's growing up nicely, learning a lot, he's less of a terror. Loves people and playing with other dogs. He's a very confident little guy.
You can see he's hitting that awkward puppy stage.

IF ANYONE IS INTERESTED IN THIS LITTLE GUY, LET ME KNOW. He's toilet trained, and in temperament he's a velcro dog. Loves to be close to his people.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

KKA National Show Spring 2013

I went to the Kai Ken Aigokai national spring show back in April, and haven't posted anything about it. To be honest I wasn't that impressed this year, or even the past few years, with the dogs being shown. Maybe I've swung more toward the NIPPO standard, but I find myself judging the KKA Kai a bit harshly, and there have been few dogs that pique my interest.
Still, I have a lot of friends there, and I do love the breed, so I made the LONG drive out to Yamanashi, and arrived there in time to enjoy a breezy spring day with multitudes of Kai, and good friends.

An exception to my lack of interest would be the brindle female that was bred and shown by my good friend Inoue-san of Sai no Kuni Inoue Sou. She's the last dog in the following video.

She's just a touch overweight here, but she's got a great head and earset, something that I'm rather particular about.