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Home > General > Pets in Japanese Culture: 10 Surprising Facts

Pets in Japanese Culture: 10 Surprising Facts

Cat in the Japanese arches in Kyoto Fushimi Inari Temple

The love of pets is universal and spans world cultures, and Japan is no exception. In fact, Japanese people have a reputation for pampering their pets, with many preferring to own a pet over having children.

Here are 10 interesting facts about the role of pets in Japanese culture. Some of these facts might surprise you, while you will likely identify with others!


The 10 Facts About Pets in Japanese Culture

1. Dogs are the most popular pets in Japan

In a 2022 survey1, dogs were the most popular pets in Japan, with 11.1% of dogs owned compared to 9.6% of cats. However, the overwhelming number of people surveyed, 72.8%, did not own any pets at all.

young asian woman playing and sitting on road in the park with her dog
Image Credit: Monster Ztudio, Shutterstock

2. Toy Poodles are the most popular dogs in Japan

Toy Poodles are the most popular dogs in Japan. The Dachshund, Chihuahua, and the Shiba Inu, a breed that originated in Japan, follow the Toy Poodle as the most popular breeds.

3. Japanese tend to prefer pets to parenthood

A trend that has come about in Japan is a decrease in the birthrate and an increase in pet ownership. Many of these pet owners prefer having pets over becoming parents and even treat them like their children.

4. Many Japanese pet owners love to spoil their pets

Many Japanese pet owners splurge on designer clothing for their pets, including Dior, Gucci, Channel, and Hermès. They invest in pushchairs for transporting their dogs and expensive spa days.

Woman pushes her Chihuahua dog in pet stroller walking in mall
Image Credit: CandyRetriever, Shutterstock

5. Beetles are popular pets in Japan

Beetles like Rhinoceros beetles, known as kabutomushi beetles in Japan, are quite large (ranging from 1.5 to 2.36 inches) and are popular pets in Japan. There are also Stag beetles (average of 2 inches), Atlas beetles (up to 4 inches), Caucasus beetles (up to 5 inches), Neptune beetles (up to 6 inches), and Hercules beetles (up to 7 inches)!

6. The third most popular pets in Japan are fish

More specifically, the third most popular pet is the Japanese Rice Fish, followed by the Goldfish. Fish are generally easy to look after and aren’t that expensive, so they can make great pets, particularly for those who live in small apartments in the city.

7. Japan has six distinctive dog breeds

The six Japanese breeds are the Akita Inu, Kai Ken, Kishu Ken, Hokkaido Ken, Shikoku Ken, and of course, the famous Shiba Inu.

happy akita inu dog resting at the park
Image Credit: Kristina Chizhmar, Shutterstock

8. There is only one Japanese cat breed

Where there are more than six dog breeds, only one cat breed originated in Japan. The Japanese Bobtail is a unique cat with a short tail. They aren’t well-known outside of their native country but are an ancient breed that has been around for hundreds of years.

9. Japan’s pet industry is thriving

The retail value in the pet market in Japan is estimated at 1.75 trillion Japanese yen for 2022, which works out to almost 12 billion USD.

This includes everything from pet food and supplies to funeral services and pet salons. There are even restaurants that let your dog dine with you at the table with their own menu!

10. Cats are considered lucky and there are temples devoted to them

You might be familiar with the maneki-neko, the “good fortune” cat. This statue of a cat has a waving paw up in the air, and the name maneki-neko translates to, “beckoning cat.” In Japan, the standard way to beckon someone is with the palm facing forward and fingers pointing down.

When a maneki-neko’s left paw is raised, it brings friendship and customers (which is why you’ll often see these statues in shops), and a raised right paw brings money and good fortune.

This cat is based on the Japanese Bobtail. While you’ll see a variety of different patterns and colors on these statues, they are traditionally calico.

Image Credit: Darko Majcenovic, Pexels



Japan’s love affair with pets, particularly dogs, has grown over the years, and they have many laws and regulations about licensing and animal cruelty and neglect. While there aren’t as many pet owners in Japan as there are in Europe and North America, chances are that those numbers will continue to climb.

Japan’s long history with pets, in addition to their reverence of certain animals, means it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that the Japanese people love pampering their pets just as much as the rest of the world.

Featured Image Credit: FOTOGRIN, Shutterstock

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