Monday, August 27, 2007

Dogs, Not Sprogs in Japan

In dog we trust: Japan's childless turn to canines
For Horikoshi, sharing her life with dogs instead of babies is an active choice. She divorced her husband who had asked her to follow Japanese tradition and become a stay-at-home mum; she wanted to pursue her career. Her current partner has to accept that her dogs and her work are at the centre of her life.

A specialist in cataracts, Horikoshi is now at the top of her profession and likes to spend her money on travel, her black Porsche and her dogs. Her friends share her choice.

"My friends -- married, one poodle, no child. Married, two Chihuahuas, no child. Married, one Chihuahua, no child," she counts off her fingers.

With its low birth-rate and rapidly ageing population, Japan is considered a saturated market by many.

But Horikoshi's case shows that fewer births, coupled with an economic recovery and the emergence of women as independent earners and spenders, also create new needs.


"I don't want a family, I want to continue to work hard. I don't need help, I don't need a husband. I have a lot of free time, I can do everything by myself," said Horikoshi, who has her own practice and performs 15 eye operations in an afternoon, leaving most mornings free for shopping.

"But sometimes I feel lonely, and now when I come back to my apartment, I can see two dogs."

Dogs now outnumber children aged 10 and under in Japan -- there were 13.1 million dogs in 2006. As the number of humans shrink, the dog population is growing, research firm Euromonitor says, and so is the market for dog-related products.
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"Dog parents" often have more spare cash for frills and fads than people with children. After all, they don't have to pay college fees or a mortgage for a big, family-friendly house.
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