Sunday, August 9, 2020

What You Look At

 "What do you think of this dog?". The age old, loaded question, where one is expected to give a (hopefully) correct opinion.

If you're an ordinary (or extraordinary) dog owner, you may be drawn to a dog's temperament, or vivid color. If you're a breeder, you might be drawn to its structure or type. A judge will hopefully be drawing on all of these points, along with knowledge of what the breed should be like. My point is that depending on who you ask, you will get a different answer. And that goes for judges as well. A NIPPO judge and an FCI judge will most likely place different weight on particular aspects of the dog.

My 師匠 (shi-shō) and I are always talking dog, evaluating dogs, and several years back now, we had a conversation about a certain dog. The word shi-shō translates to 'mentor' or 'teacher' in English. In Japanese however, it carries much more weight. It implies that the person being referred to is a true master of their craft. Their student would be referred to as their 弟子 (de-shi). This relationship shows great respect both toward the teacher, since the student deems them a true master of their craft, and toward the student, since the teacher deemed them a worthy individual to pass on their knowledge to.

So after that daisy picking, back to my teacher and I, talking about a certain Shikoku. He'll usually ask me what I think, which is always sort of a pop quiz. I think at the time I started listing faults that I could see. He stopped me there. He said, "As an ordinary dog owner, you don't really know what a dog is supposed to be like, so you see what you like. Those are the first things you notice. When you become a student of the breed, you begin to notice faults, and all too often these are the first things you will comment on. But a true breed preservationist/specialist should see the good traits in the dog first. What parts of this dog do you want to pass on to the next generation?" 

I've thought about this a lot over the years, and why it is so important. In trying to breed a better dog, I need to focus on what is good, and try to keep those traits, while carefully removing the faults. If one's focus is always on the faults, you end up breeding toward a 'safer' dog, but you may have lost a lot of the essence of the breed along the way. ただの犬になる (tada no inu ni naru) is something I've heard numerous times in regard to the Nihon Ken. It roughly translates to 'it will become just a dog'. Four legs, prick ears, and a curly tail still make it a spitz type canine, but it will have lost the uniqueness of the aboriginal Nihon Ken.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

RIP Inoue-san

In the early morning hours of August 7th, the legendary Inoue-san passed away. He went quickly due to a pulmonary hematoma.
For everyone who has followed my blog over the years, you know that my first Nihon Ken, a Kai named Haru, was bred by Inoue-san. He was an amazing man, and not just because of the amazing things he did with his kennel Sai no Kuni Inoue Sou. He took Sougou (BIS) at the KKA national show twice, first with Nanyou no Riki, and then again with Shinshuu no Daishin. He won the Terada Cup (RBIS) at the KKA national show twice, first with Sai no Takahime, and then again last year with Sai no Haruka. I don't know of anyone with that kind of show resume in the KKA. That's not to mention the results of dogs that he bred, or were bred from his lines.

But beyond his show results, what he did for the breed was due to the amazing human that he was. I know it's bandied about a lot when someone passes, that they were a great person, but he really was. He was the most kind and giving person you will ever meet. He gave to his own detriment, of his time and energy (and loads of good food!), without ever saying a negative word or complaint. He will be missed at the national show, where he would show up every year with boxes and boxes of fresh fish, all labeled for his friends. He will be missed at the Tsukiji fish market where he was a master at carving up maguro. He will be missed by his family. But, I think he may be missed most by his dogs. He loved them, and they loved him in return. We understand what has happened, but all a dog knows is that his friend is gone.

Inoue-san looked after me when I hit a really rough spot going through my divorce. A call here and there to make sure I was okay, always jokingly telling me to bring a girlfriend over. I can't count how many dinners I've had at their table.

His presence in the breed was nothing less than a positive, his energy drawing people to the dogs, to the breed. He leaves a gaping hole in this world, and in all our hearts. RIP Inoue-san, may we all live our lives half as well as you.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Delete Data From the Database?

EDIT: There have been assumptions made regarding which kennel requested their dogs be removed. I did not list the name of the kennel because the point of this post was not to point fingers at people. I just wanted to publicly announce that dog names will not be removed from here on out, but incorrect or personal data can be removed. With the current discussion of health issues in the Shikoku, people have assumed this was a Shikoku kennel request (assumption is a dangerous thing). It was not. I don't believe this kennel's request was linked to the health of their dogs, more that they (understandably) wanted control over the data of their dogs.

I was purposefully vague about the request, but by not posting details, there has incorrect assumption. I could have taken a bit more time to imagine all the scenarios, and write a better post about this. My apologies. The community preserving the Japanese breeds is a small and passionate one. Let's try to focus our energy and time positively, and find ways to work together to tackle the issues we face.

I have recently been asked by 2 people to have their dogs removed from the Nihon Ken Database (after they had incorrectly been listed as suffering from epilepsy). I was very apologetic, since bad data like this is not helpful at all in tracking health issues in the Japanese breeds. More recently I was sent an email from a breeder in Europe asking for all dogs with their kennel name, and all dogs they had imported from Japan, to be removed from the database. Here is my reply.

Thank you for your mail.
I am currently accepting requests to remove private information (if it makes its way to the database accidentally) such as owner names and contact information.
I am also accepting requests to remove or correct, incorrect or unverified health information. 
Because the database has been set up to track health issues in the 6 Nihon Ken, I am not currently accepting requests to delete dog names from the database.

Shigeru Kato

If in the future I am made aware of a legal need to remove dog names from the database, I will do so. Currently, it is not in the Nihon Ken's best interest to remove possibly valuable data. Thank you all for continuing to support the database with your donations, and your data.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

NIPPO Grand National 2020 Cancelled

Now it is official, the NIPPO Grand National 2020 has been cancelled. Hopefully next year we'll have one!

KKA Membership Dues for 2020!

So it's a bit late in the year, and usually we'd have needed to renew our membership by now, but here we are in August. I say we, because I have not yet paid my dues either. Corona. Yup, been too busy.

So for all you KKA members who would like to renew your membership, now is the time to hit me up (as I will be doing all the paperwork in bulk). New members are welcome too!

To become a KKA member costs 5000JPY. Yearly membership costs 5000JPY. 
The KKA ships out a biannual membership magazine, but while the KKA long ago allowed me to start registering overseas members and litters, my end of the bargain is that I have to organize all postage of magazines and pedigrees etc. I have kind of ignored the fact that I have been shipping out magazines and pedigrees to everyone overseas, and paying for the shipping out of my pocket for the past 10 plus years (yikes). So, I will start charging for this from here on out.

If you send me an email at, or hit me up on FB messenger, I'll write up an invoice and let you know how much everything will cost. I'd like to finish all the KKA related paperwork by this Sunday, so please contact me before then if you're interested.

Friday, July 3, 2020

NIPPO Grand National 2020 Update

An announcement was made on NIPPO's website today stating that the due to the global pandemic, the Nagano Branch has declined to host the 2020 NIPPO Grand National. The NIPPO board will be convened in the near future to discuss what steps to take. NIPPO apologizes for any inconvenience or worry caused by this, and asks for everyone’s understanding regarding this matter.

EDIT:This does no mean that the national has been cancelled. It could still be hosted by another NIPPO branch.

Friday, June 26, 2020

NIPPO: Current State of Afairs

On the 5th of June, a news story was run in Japan about the illegal sale of dogs by officials/members of NIPPO. While it did not name any names, it mentioned three persons whom the reporter had interviewed. These three persons are easily identifiable to active NIPPO members in Japan, one as a board member, another as the head of judging, and the third as a Shiba Inu judge.

The Act on Welfare and Management of Animals governs the commercial sale of animals in Japan. I believe it was around 15 years ago that the law was updated to tighten up the licensing requirements and stipulations regarding the commercial sale of dogs. To put it simply, if you are selling more dogs more than twice a year, or more than 2 dogs a year, you need to be licensed. These three higher ups in NIPPO were reported to all be unlicensed. There were some statements given by people interviewed for the story that puppies were being produced for preservation and not for commercial sale, with some people not actually selling dogs but receiving a gratuity. However if these allegations are proven to be true, under the eyes of the law receiving any money whatsoever would make these commercial transactions.

I have had many people from all over the world asking me about what is going on, since every has seen comments about it on social media. As usual on social media, there is truth, untruth, misunderstanding, and a lot of personal opinion and conjecture. Since it takes a lot of time to reply to everyone one at a time, I have finally made some time to write about the basics of the story. I will not be naming names here (and I would warn people who have done so on social media) since if you do not have proof or firsthand knowledge of allegations you are making, you can be sued for libel (and I have heard that some people are currently being sued for comments they have made on social media regarding this issue).

The Ministry of the Environment has jurisdiction over this matter, and is currently investigating. My personal experience in this matter is that there are many older people in Japan, in all the many clubs and preservation societies, that have been breeding dogs for most of their adult lives. They did not make the effort some 15 years ago to become licensed, and according to the letter of the law they would be considered to be operating illegally. This is not a new issue, it is one that NIPPO has actually made continuous announcements about, but the fact that higher ups in the organization were still not licensed is definitely disappointing. 

Another separate issue that has been making the rounds on social media is regarding the sale of dogs by NIPPO judges, and one well known Shiba judge in particular. While this is not a legal issue, it is a NIPPO issue, as it is against NIPPO rules for judges to be involved in commercial canine breeding/sale. The allegations against this former head of NIPPO judging are not new, in fact they go back around 2 years ago when he had a very public spat with another NIPPO member (a Shiba breeder). Other complaints made against this judge are that he is the head of a NIPPO branch, but physically lives in a different prefecture (NIPPO members automatically become members of the branch that their registered address is located in). Another allegation I have heard is that his dogs were kept in unsanitary conditions, and that he is breeding/selling dogs while unlicensed (he is one of the 3 mentioned in the investigative news report).

In my opinion, NIPPO has been dragging their feet in investigating these allegations, with little transparency regarding the process. This has led to a lot of instability, and a general negative atmosphere. We're here for the dogs, or at least should be, right? None of the information I have just related is new news. This has been circulating in NIPPO for a few years now, but possibly due to frustration regarding the slow process, and NIPPO's seeming inaction, the information has made its way to the national media (and now to you on social media). 

So, with as little bias as possible, that is the basics of what is going on in NIPPO at the moment. I won't comment publicly on the politicking going on behind the scenes, and why all this started in the first place. When all this started 2 years ago, I was actually slandered, and had false rumors spread about me (which I'd be happy to refute if people had asked me directly about things instead of making guesses on the internet). I've had people ask if I'm ok, or if I need them to go to bat for me, or that I should sue people. Really, I don't care. I just want to continue enjoying my passion for the Japanese breeds. Anything I say or do, I want it to be constructive toward making the state of affairs for the Nihon Ken better. Some of this stirring the pot is overdue and necessary to create change I think, but there also has to be some discussion and ideas about how to move forward positively without just tearing people down and creating division.

Just like so many things in the world right now, I feel like NIPPO is in a state of overdue change, and a little bit of an upheaval. Hopefully this is the driving energy to get us to a better place.