Shine On

In Japan, pets might be more popular than children

The birthrate is falling in Japan as more couples turn to pet ownership. (Thinkstock)In Japan, child-sized sweaters, dresses and coats boasting designer labels like Hermes, Chanel and Gucci can be found draped over bejewelled hangers in chi-chi boutiques across, Tokyo. The kicker? These mini-ensembles are not for children ­— these creations are pure canine couture.

In a country where the birthrate is falling dramatically, the Guardian reports young Japanese couples and singles are turning more and more to pet ownership to fill the baby void.

"Official estimates put the pet population at 22 million or more, but there are only 16.6 million children under 15," says the story.

Also see: Tips for keeping your pet safe this summer

As such, the pet industry in Tokyo is booming. Doggie yoga classes, gourmet food shops, organic restaurants and hot spring resorts are popping up all over town, reports the Guardian. And in many parts of the city, it's easier to find a doggie boutique than a children's clothing store.

"Our Japanese clients do dress their dogs up," says John Finlay, owner of Bark Place Hotel and Spaw in Toronto -- a facility that offers day and overnight care for dogs."I might do it for warmth in the winter — a jacket on a dog — but I like them to look like dogs."

Finlay says that while his clients love their dogs as if they were their own children, most are keenly aware their pet pooches are not, in fact, human.

"There are degrees," he says. "I have met people who dress them up, put them in carriages, talk and understand them." But they are not the majority of his clients.

And when a client brings a dressed-up chihuahua or mini poodle for a visit to doggie daycare, he'll remove their clothing for safety reasons.

"I take them off to allow for better motion because I find it's restricting," he says.

Also see: Dog pedicures: Nail art isn't just for humans

For Japanese commitment-phobes who want to get with the pet craze, but don't want to take on the responsibility of full-time pet ownership, pet rental shops in that country provide furry friends for one hour to one week rentals, despite criticisms from animal welfare groups who say it is unhealthy for pets to live such unstable lives, reports the Telegraph.

Another option for people who want to spend time with pets but don't want to bring them home, is a pet café. MSN.com reports 150 cat cafes, rabbit cafes and the like have sprung up across Japan, providing customers an opportunity to spend time with — and learn to take care of — an animal without making a grand commitment.

Watch the video below showing the booths at the Shaghai International Dog Show.

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