Thursday, September 29, 2011


The hunting season starts in under 2 months, so some friends and I took our dogs out for some boar training. My younger brother came out with me this time, and we had loads of fun. Baron's been staying with him temporarily, and he's done a terrific job with him.

We got there the night before, had a terrific outdoor meal with everyone, and some interesting conversation about the Nihon Ken. The next morn we were up bright and early for a great Japanese breakfast, then on to training.

Baron was amazing, but he's already had plenty of experience in the mountains, and my goal was to let my Shikoku pup Rome see boar again. Unfortunately he was really having any of it and was more interested in playing with the other dogs. We'll see how he develops over the hunting season.

Here's a friend's Kishu baying the boar. Unfortunately we ended up having to use a very large boar. The larger boar don't move around very much, and are much easier for the dogs to bay up. It's like that in the mountains as well. I guess the larger they are, the less of a threat they feel the dogs are to them, plus the larger boar tire faster.

Here are two Shikoku baying. The smaller female is just around a year old, and this was her first time seeing a boar. At first she didn't show any interest, but caught on very quickly. She has amazing potential, and by her second round later in the day was learning by leaps and bounds. You can see the male here gets charged and almost pinned by the boar, but barely manages to counter and flip himself over it.

'Kuro-yotsu-me' (black-four-eye) or B/T Shikoku are a minority in the breed, but yesterday I got a chance to see a mother/son combo baying up a boar. They were very nice dogs, calm, friendly, but tenacious in front of the boar. It's possible that they haven't had enough experience on boar to get the distance between them and their prey right. For everyone that watches watches my videos/reads my blog and thinks it would be fun to test their dogs on boar, or start hunting, well boar are dangerous game. I haven't seen any serious injuries in training, but I've seen my share in the mountains. Yesterday I had an unpleasant reminder of how dangerous boar can be if the dogs are even a millisecond too slow to react.

On another note, talked to the local hunters and found that they are testing wild boar for radiation in most prefectures up north. Some of the numbers I saw for boar in Fukushima/Tochigi were 7 times higher than legal consumption levels. Even in Ibaragi the numbers were 2-3 times over the limit.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


So I was rifling through my old blog yesterday and realized it was a lot more fun. Well it was more of a blog, there were a lot of stories, and somehow since I've set up 'THE NIHON KEN' (caps intended!) I've gotten all serious.

Everyone who knows me will probably agree that I tend to come across rather serious and responsible at first glance. Stick around for a while though and you will see that I am quite a corny goof as well. Actually, there's a fair sampling of corny photos of me on Facebook. So here, from the book of faces, are a few pictures from the other night.

Went out for all-you-can-eat/all-you-can-drink (yes, it's actually economically possible to have that on the menu here) 'shabu-shabu' with friends, and then charged on hard to karaoke.

We start off looking pretty normal.

 And then it gets fun.

Import a Puppy or an Adult?

Someone asked me recently what my thoughts were on why there are so many Nihon Ken puppies being imported as opposed to adults, and what the advantages/disadvantages are.

For anyone interested in breeding, I would rather be sending over young adults. By the time a dog is 1-2 years old you can have genetic testing done, you can see that the dog is not missing any teeth, what 'type' it's carrying, its temperament, any faults it may have etc. You can have titled dogs sent over, proven studs and breeding females. From a conformation and health standpoint, shipping a young adult over is definitely the way to go.

As to why everyone imports pups, I think there are a few reasons. One is that everyone loves puppies. They're cute, and it's a terrific experience to raise them. You can raise the pup in the environment it will spend the rest of it's life in, train them the way you like, and in many cases people already own adult dogs so it's easier to bring a new pup than an adult dog into the household. Puppies are more readily available and cheaper. What breeder would want to easily give up a proven young adult dog?

Lastly, and this is probably the most important point, the way that most Nihon Ken breeders in Japan raise and keep their dogs is very different from the norm in say the US. The vast majority of breeders show, and breed as a hobby. The dogs are kenneled or chained outdoors, with most getting minimal socialization. Most are not kept in the Western family pet model, but as watch dogs, hunting dogs, or kenneled show dogs. There is little to no training, socialization, most adult males are same sex aggressive (this is seen as normal and in the show ring, tolerated), most adult dogs of both sexes are not comfortable with strangers. While it can be argued that this is the Nihon Ken at its core, I know from experience that they can make terrific indoor companions, but it takes raising them in that environment from a young age to have a high percentage of success.

Since most owners and breeders overseas do not kennel their dogs it is an extremely sticky proposition to import an adult that may or may not adjust easily to living indoors and the 'pet' lifestyle, and most likely will have issues with living with new adult dogs.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Exporting Dogs From Japan

Over the years I've received a lot of mail from people interested in owning one of the Japanese breeds. After a bit of initial trepidation about having my passion and work mingle, I began offering my services as a translator to help find pups to ship overseas. I still offer this service, but for the more adventurous I thought I would put together a basic step by step of what it takes to find a Nihon Ken pup, and get it home.

1.Finding a Breeder

Most breeders of the Japanese breeds are non-profit kennels. They work to preserve these rare breeds as part of their national cultural heritage. A large percentage of the breeders are older, most are not very tech savvy, and nearly all do not speak English. So how do you go about finding a pup?

If you know someone who has imported from and already has connections to a kennel in Japan, it will make your search much easier. Personal connections are very important in Japanese culture, so being introduced by a mutual acquaintance will help you get your foot in the door.

Internet searches, and directly mailing kennels with websites is another method you can use, albeit a very hit and miss one. You have no idea of the quality or nature of the kennel you are buying from. They could be the worst kennel in the world, but just happen to have a website. If you choose to go this route it is preferable to have your letter translated into Japanese before you mail the kennel you are interested in. I've heard from many of my friends here who run kennels, that they have been rather offended to have people send them mail in foreign languages. It shows a level of seriousness and good manners that you have taken the time to have your letter translated so the breeder can understand you!

Perhaps the best method is to contact the breed club. All the Japanese breeds have dedicated clubs, and if you contact the office, even in English, they will usually make the effort to help you find what you are looking for. Here is a list of the clubs and their contact information.

Akita Inu Hozonkai (Akita Dog Preservation Society aka AKIHO)
Japan Kennel Club-

Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Japanese Dog Preservation Society aka NIPPO)-
Shiba Inu Hozonkai (Shiba Dog Preservation Society aka SHIBAHO)-
Japan Kennel Club-

Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Japanese Dog Preservation Society aka NIPPO)-

Kai Ken Aigokai (Kai Dog Protection Society aka KKA)-
Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Japanese Dog Preservation Society aka NIPPO)-
Japan Kennel Club-

Hokkaido Ken Hozonkai (Hokkaido Dog Preservation Society)-
Hokkaido Ken Kyokai (Hokkaido Dog Association)-

Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Japanese Dog Preservation Society aka NIPPO)- or

The better your relationship and communication with the breeder, the better your chances of getting a quality pup as opposed to getting say the runt of the litter, or a pup with faults. Be as honest, clear, and polite in your communications as possible.


Puppy prices will vary by breed and kennel. I can only give you what I have found to be the norm within Japan, and what I generally consider to be reasonable, which is anywhere between 70,000-150,000 yen. I have found pups for under this price, and heard of numbers as high as 1,000,000 yen.

This price should usually include registration, deworming, and the first round of vaccination. It is good to be clear with your breeder on this point. You will also need an IATA approved crate to ship your pup in. Some breeders will include this for free.

Here are some ballpark figures for how much things usually cost over here in Japan.

Crate: @8,000 yen
Combination Vaccine: @8,000 yen
Rabies Vaccine: @5,000 yen
Deworm: @3,000 yen
Standard Health Exam: @3,000 yen

3.Export Regulations

The pup must be over 8 weeks old, and an examination reservation will need to be made at the Animal Quarantine Service of the airport the animal will be flying out of, preferably at least 7 days in advance of the flight. The dog will need a health certificate stating that the animal is free from signs of Leptospirosis and Rabies, and is in good health. You can have this examination done at any animal hospital, or can make arrangements for the certificate to be issued at the AQS on the day of the flight. This certificate must be issued a maximum of 7 days prior to the day of the flight. Here is the link to the Japan Animal Quarantine Service

Import regulations will vary by country, so contact your local quarantine authority well in advance. Japan is a rabies free zone, and this does ease import restrictions to most countries.

Importing dogs to the US from Japan is fairly straight forward. The only paperwork you usually need is the Health Certificate issued by the AQS in Japan. While combination vaccinations and microchipping are preferable, dogs can be imported without them. However if over 3 months old, the dog will need to be rabies vaccinated. Import regulations to EU countries are much more stringent.


There are two ways ship a dog out of the country, accompanied (carry on or check in of the flight you are on) and unaccompanied (as cargo). If you are taking pups with you out of the country you will need to make arrangements in advance with your airline. Most airlines require a minimum of 72 hours notice, but it's best to make arrangements when you book your flight as there is limited space for animals on any given flight. To make your reservation you will need to give the airline information about the weight/age/type of dog, and the dimensions of the crate. Some airlines allow dogs that fit under a size/weight limit to be crated and taken aboard as carry on.

To ship a pup unaccompanied (as cargo), you will need to make arrangements with a shipping company at least 10 days prior to shipping. In Japan regulations require that you use a shipping agent to ship live animals.Shipping agencies have offices near the international airports here in Japan, and you will usually have to arrange some sort of transport to the office. Some companies offer a pick up service. The dog will need to have its exam at the AQC (booked a week in advance remember!) on the day of the flight, and then needs to be taken to the shipping agent. The shipping agent can make the reservation, do the paperwork and take the dog to its inspection for you for a fee. It usually costs around 25,000 yen.

The Crate: Airline's have regulations regarding crates. Most follow IATA guidelines. To put it simply the crate must be big enough for the dog to stand at full height and not have it's ears touching the roof. The dog must also be able to turn around and lie down comfortably. Each airline has it's own particular regulations, so you'll need to check with your airline or shipping agent.

Shipping Costs: Obviously costs will vary according to destination. Taking a dog back with you as check in is surprisingly affordable. As an example, shipping a kennel on most airlines to the US costs around 20,000-40,000 yen.

Shipping a dog as cargo is pricier. For most destinations in the US shipping is @150,000 yen for a medium sized crate. Shipping costs to Europe are higher and vary by destination.

Here's a useful tip: some airlines will allow pups that are under certain age/size limits to be crated together. The age/size varies by airline. When shipping cargo you are billed by crate size, so there is no difference in shipping costs if you ship 1 or 2 pups.
Lastly I will mention that these are the costs if you are able to do everything yourself. If you go through an intermediary, or have the breeder taking care of all these preparations, prepare to pay a little more for the service.

Hokkaido Ken Bear Test

Here's how they used to test the Hokkaido on bear at shows. The narration explains that the importance of this test is to judge the dog's wariness/cautiousness. The judge explains that it is an extremely important trait for a hunting dog to have a healthy level of cautiousness. If a dog attacks from the front with no regard for the superior power of the bear, the test is stopped as it shows the dog is lacking a healthy temperament for hunting. Attacks from the side or rear are awarded points.


You can see the white Hokkaido in the video is trying to move directly toward the bear.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Some Other Books

This is one that was recently published by Kawate-san, a long time Kai owner and breeder. It's about a line of Kai that was well known for their excellent temperament, structure and hunting prowess. This line goes back to the renowned Yanagisawa-san's kennel. It's a shorter book, in Japanese, with not that many pictures, but interesting.


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. The second book will probably come to around 5000 yen with shipping to the US.

NIPPO 50th Anniversary Commemorative Manuscript

This monster of a book comes in 2 parts and was published to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of NIPPO (the Japanese Dog Preservation Society). It contains everything NIPPO published from 1932-1978, including breed histories, standards, show results, pictures of winners etc. It's extremely hard to find now as it's long out of print. Brad Anderson of Yamabushi Kennel has what is probably one of the only copies in North America, and it is probably one of the only copies to be found outside of Japan.

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. I've found a few copies of this, and then tend to cost around 15,000 yen + shipping.

I've always got my eyes peeled for copies of this book, so if anyone is interested, contact me and I'll let you know when a copy becomes available.

The Nihonken

The Nihonken - Everything About the Nihonken, is a book that was published by NIPPO (the Japanese Dog Preservation Society). At just over 400 pages, it includes the history of the Japanese breeds and NIPPO, along with a comprehensive explanation of the standard complete with pictures and graphs. It is in black and white and only in Japanese. The book also contains pictures of famous dogs from years past.

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.

***Checked shipping costs to the US today, and the cost of the book plus shipping will come to around 4000 yen.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Shikoku Bloodlines

The Shikoku breed originated on the island of Shikoku, the smallest of the four main Japanese islands. Shikoku means 'four provinces', and refers to the four former provinces which made up the island: Awa, Tosa, Sanuki, and Iyo. Present day Shikoku is made up of four prefectures, Ehime, Kagawa, Kōchi, and Tokushima.

At the time of the classification of the Shikoku as a breed, there were several 'types' from different regions on the island. One thing all these regions have in common is that they are all very mountainous difficult areas to reach.

 The original lines of Shikoku were the Awa, Hongawa, Hata, and Uwajima. The Uwajima and and Hata were virtually indistinguishable and so from early on were lumped together as Hata. The Awa line vanished fairly on, leaving the Hongawa and Hata lines as the 2 bloodlines that make up the modern day Shikoku.

Here is a simple map of Shikoku island with the areas the three lines of Shikoku originated color marked. The Hata line originated in the green area, Hongawa line in the blue, and the Awa line in the orange.

Hongawa-kei (Hongawa line)


The picture above is of 3 famous Hongawa line studs. Listed from top to bottom they are Choushun-gou, Kusu-gou, and Kuma-gou. The Hongawa line is from the area around Hongawa Village. An early history of the area tells us that the area was first settled by professional hunters. Even within this line there were subtle differences in type depending on which village they were from, but I will do my best to list the line's traits.

-Light movement
-Compact, athletic, muscular, with a slightly slimmer build
-Well rounded forehead
-Nice sharp eyeset
-Thinner coat than the Hata line
-Lines between coat colors sometimes blurred
-Higher incidence of B/T
-Skin tight over entire body

Hata-kei (Hata line)


The Hata line is from the south eastern part of the island. The picture above is of 2 famous studs out of this line, Goma-gou (top), and Mutsu-gou (bottom). Here are some of this line's traits.
-Stockier and more thick boned than the Hongawa line
-Less of a 'stop'
-Looser skin over entire body
-Ears set slightly high
-Thicker longer coats than the Hongawa line
-Lines between coat colors very defined
-Higher incidence of white
-Wider spacing between eyes

Most of the Shikoku today are a mix of both lines, although there are a few breeders who maintain relatively pure lines of one type or the other. Most Hata lines today are descended from Matsukaze-gou, a stud that was actually a Hata/Hongawa mix, but carried toward the Hata line.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Adolescent Kai Female

Tenro Kensha has a kuro-tora Kai female available for adoption. She was originally brought into the kennel as an outcross, and while she has very nice conformation, she is missing a tooth. Apparently she's got a very nice calm temperament and would do great in a pet home.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Visiting Friends

The other day I visited Tenro Kensha with my friend Ogawa-san of Gotenyama Kensha. We took one of Ogawa-san's females for a breeding, and also got to take a look at the latest Tenro litter. This litter is a Gin/Sakura litter with 4 boys and 1 girl. As is the norm with Tenro litters, most of the pups were reserved from a while back, but there are still 1 or 2 of the boys available.

The litter looked terrific, great bone/coats/brindle as I always see in Okabe-san's line. They do a great job of caring for the pups as well, and they get a lot of time with the Okabe's kids, in and out of the house.

It's always a pleasure to visit Tenro Kensha, and as usual they were terrific hosts. They're great people, and run a great kennel. My Nikon is out of commission (as usual I broke it in an incident involving boar) so all we got were some snaps on my phone, and a few I pulled from Okabe-san's blog

I'll just add here that I'm sending a pup over to Oregon this week, and I have a family member going over later this month. If anyone's interested in importing a Kai pup, there are a few available, and the shipping will be loads cheaper than usual.

Here's Ogawa-san's female. She's a littermate of Kumi who is owned by Yamabushi Kensha in New Mexico.


Here's the pups playing with a glove covered in boar scent. They went right at it.


Here's the female of the litter.


Here's a picture of a female from a different line of Kai. I love the way her ears form a 'T' in this pic. She's available at the moment.


Here's one of Ogawa-san and I.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Kai Website Links

For anyone who may be interested, here are some Kai Kennel/Owner/Blog links for you.