Tuesday, April 30, 2013

NIPPO Membership Dues

The 5000 yen yearly Nippo membership fee is due by the end of March every year. Once April rolls around, you will be charged an additional 3000. Short story, pay before March 31st!

If you are overseas, send an international postal money order (in yen!) to NIPPO headquarters, with your name and membership number included in the transfer information. If you find this difficult, find someone in Japan to pay it for you!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


...is here in full force. Lovely weather. The cherry blossoms are gone, everything's going green, I'm getting lots of work done on the house before we are assaulted by the rainy season. Busy, busy, busy. I love the fact that the seasons are so distinct here in Japan. You get a great natural feel of the passage of time.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hunting With Dogs in Japan

So, a friend reminded me of a post I wrote years back about the different types of dogs used here in Japan for hunting, along with a few of my thoughts. It is up on my old blog http://tora-inu.blogspot.ca/2009/10/wot-about-hunting-with-dogs-in-japan.html

but I figure I'll put it up here as well.

A friend of mine asked me the other day about hunting in Japan, and what types of breeds are used. I meant to type a quick reply over a cup of tea, but as usual I ended up with a WOT (Wall of Text) reply. Yes, I am long winded. My wife reminds me all the time. I try to explain everything and anything.

Well seeing as I typed this up, I figured I'd throw in on my poor abused blog that doesn't get nearly the amount of attention it should get since my Nikon died.

As far as hunters and their dogs, almost all bird dogs in Japan are western breeds (pointers, retrievers, spaniels). Most big game hunters run mixes, and usually include Nihon Ken/Hound bloodlines. Everything over here is cramped, including hunting areas, and hounds are extremely far ranging. Hunters add Nihon Ken blood as they are closer ranging.

There are Japanese breeds that are not recognized (even here in Japan), some are old hunting lines, some are newer breeds, and many hunters use/mix them. Some examples are the Yakushima, Nitta, and the Matsuda Corporation's 'Luggers'.

Hunters that hunt in large groups usually run hounds, with solo hunters (tandoku-ryoshi) using Nihon Ken or mixes. There are some hunters that run a 'catch dog' or two in their packs, like Pitties, Amstaffs, Dogos, or Staffies. Dogos were big around 15-20 years ago, and there were lots of imports, but they didn't fare too well over here. It's a combination of the mountainous terrain, their size, and hunting style.

Lastly, there is the minority that run purebred Nihon Ken. Kishu are boar/deer dogs, and are probably the most widely used Nihon Ken for hunting. Kai are probably second and are mostly used for bird, and a smaller percentage on boar. Shikoku are boar/deer dogs as well, but I only know a handful of hunters that have purebred Shikoku. Right under the Shikoku is the Hokkaido. I know a couple of hunters that have tried Hokkas down here on the main island, but because of their thicker coats, they tend to overheat. They are also built more for hunting in snow, they have stockier stronger front ends, but not much speed. Hunting with Shiba is something I hear about very rarely, and I've only ever seen them on birds. The Akita, well I don't know of anyone that hunts with Akita. The present 'type' and bloodlines are not working dogs, they're too big, and not really built for hunting.

The hunters that run Japanese breeds do so mostly for their hunting style. Of course there are some who are just very into the preserving the breeds and want to 'work' them. I'm sure a bit of the 'national heritage pride' factors in as well. I used to hunt with Jack Russell Terriers, and when choosing my next breed I decided that there are plenty of people hunting with western breeds. Owning AND working the Japanese breeds is something only a handful of people in the world are able to do, and seeing as I'm in that position I picked the Kai to start with as it's a 'all round' hunting dog and suits my hunting style.

The Japanese breeds are perfectly suited to hunting in Japan. An agile medium sized dog has an easier time in hilly terrain with thick underbrush. There are not many big open spaces, where a large long limbed dog would have an advantage in running down prey. The thick double coat that sheds twice a year as the temperatures change is also invaluable in protecting dogs hunting in thick, prickly brush.

Nihon Ken aren't 'trained' to hunt per se. This is one reason hunters enjoy hunting with them. Most western breeds are bred to very specialized hunting tasks or styles, and require a lot of training (especially bird dogs) but the Nihon Ken develop their own hunting techniques and style, through plain instinct mostly it seems. It's just a matter of getting them out to the mountains early and often, and instinct takes over. In my experience hunting with them is like going on a hunt with a wild animal. If you have a dog with the drive, smarts, and eventually experience as well, the hunter's job is just to read what the dog is doing and try to keep up. They don't need any commands, and aren't really trained to do anything, they're just reacting naturally to being on the hunt. In hunting big game, the dogs learn that if they stop the animal for long enough, the human will come and dispatch it for them.

There are downsides to hunting with Nihon Ken. They're very quiet on the hunt, and it can be difficult to know if they're on the chase, or which direction they've gone. They generally have a much smaller search range than say hounds, and will give up the chase and come back rather quickly if they feel there's too much distance between them and the hunter. They also do a lot of the 'thinking' themselves, and will develop bad habits if the hunter is not careful. For example a friend of mine had a dog that was a turning into a great baying dog, but after a few incidents where my friend took too long to find him when he had a boar bayed up (or spooked the boar by making too much noise when closing distance), completely stopped baying and would just chase the boar for a bit and come back.

I guess the main difference in hunting with Nihon Ken as opposed to Western breeds is rather subtle. It's hard to explain, but I guess it's working to bring out the dog's naturally present qualities and instincts as opposed to 'teaching' the dog how to hunt.

Hmmm hard to explain, and I have again created a wall of text.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Word of Mouth

I visited a NIPPO kennel in March, and as always, the older gentlemen that have been NIPPO members for years are a treasure trove of information regarding the Japanese dog. While some information regarding the Japanese breeds is available in printed form, a huge and indispensable portion of it is passed on from one generation to the next via word of mouth and direct instruction. This makes having and maintaining personal relationships with the people that carry this knowledge, paramount. And yeah, sometimes it's fun, and sometimes it's a pain.

I picked up a couple interesting tidbits on my visit to this kennel. How about seeing an actual photo of the famed Choshun-go, one of the founding studs of the Shikoku Ken?

Or getting a look at the famous Kokusenpu-go, a black/tan Shikoku stud, and reading that he was actually supposed to be shipped to the United States, but had trouble with rabies vaccinations and had to stay in Japan. He eventually died of heartworm

I know I've seen this picture somewhere before.

And then an amusing look at a handwritten copy of NIPPO's own original stud book. The entries on the left are the pedigree numbers. Taking a look at 76-82, a litter registration, the parents are 'Goma' from Kochi, and 'Fuji' from Mie. This is interesting because it shows that at the time of NIPPO's founding the Japanese breeds were considered to be one breed, albeit with different traits connected to the geographic area they were from. The entry here indicates that a dog from Kochi (Shikoku) was bred to a dog from Mie (Kishu), with the resulting litter being registered in the stud book. I've seen other instances of this as well, and there are examples of this that are rather well known among NIPPO members.

Interesting the things that can still be dug up. As each year goes by and more of the original powerhouse NIPPO members pass on, I wonder how much knowledge is slipping away without being properly recorded.

Friday, April 5, 2013


This week a good friend of mine, James from Hartwood Craft & Garden, is holding an exhibition of his woodwork and photography at a local gallery. I love the creativity in the pieces he creates, and the melding of Japanese antiques into his woodwork gives it a unique touch. He lives right down the road from me, and has a workshop there that I have made use of a lot recently, along with his wood fireplace and bbq pit. He's even got a wood heated rotenburo (outdoor bath) set up in front of the workshop. I have to admit that my friends and I may or may not have made use of it after a few drinks late at night. You feel like a king in a hot bath under the stars in the countryside of Japan.

Anyway, I dropped by to snap a few shots of some of the work he's got on display.

I loved this coffee table

Antique sewing machine transformed

Crafted from the remnants of a door in an old farmhouse, it's now a lamp

This table wit a burnt/blasted finish was my favorite piece on display. The picture unfortunately does not do it justice

This table was actually made by my youngest brother, an apprentice woodworker

This tabletop was originally a door on an old farmhouse

A friend of mind made this chess set, pretty nifty

James also carves wooden signs and has done some work in Kanji, so we've been talking about collaborating on some Nihon Ken themed pieces... should be pretty amazing.