Tokyo's Big Sight exhibition halls were hopping recently with packs of dogs, imperiously ordering their drivers to steer their strollers through the crowds of pesky humans. We saw three cute lapdogs in a buggy accompanied by an entourage of six exhausted human owners at their beck and call. We imagined they were yelping: "More gourmet cakes, more beauty treatments, more photo ops, please!"
This year's pet trade fair in Tokyo was quite revealing. Apart from the usual pet food and grooming supplies, a number of arcane items hinted that the Japanese pet goods market might be already past maturity, and well into the twilight zone.
How about a pink Barbie-branded Honda car, aimed at the female customer who loves both dogs and dolls? Or some beauty treatments for your pooch incorporating Ayurveda, the ancient Indian herbal medicine? Or numerous display cases filled with colorful gourmet cakes and cookies that wouldn't look out of place in the window of a Parisian patisserie?
Older and less-mobile dogs might like the colorful harnesses from Tombow Company. Instead of a using a leash, owners can half-carry their dachshunds with hind-leg problems in a harness, or strap themselves into an over-the-shoulder version to bear the weight of tired Labradors and senior golden retrievers.
Being in the doghouse isn't half so bad when the house is a stylish monochrome structure from Atelier OPA. The portable doghouse folds up flat for easy transport, and costs just 5,000 yen for a cardboard version, or 36,000 yen for the steel one. It's a home away from home for the pampered pooch who travels.
Another standout was the pretty pink booth with elegant cat silhouettes from Kyoto pet funeral specialist Marie Rose. Their booth - showing off a full range of pet coffins, marble gravestones, funeral urns and Buddhist altars for departed animal companions - was thronged.
The "Honda Dog" zone was also very popular, as the company demonstrated their dog-friendly vehicles (including the pink Barbie model) and recruited canine passersby to model in their photo studio. A nearby booth showcased jacuzzi-style bathtubs for dogs, while other displays showed off the latest in street fashions for pets.
There was one item that seemed to prove human owners were still in charge, however. Muzzles in brightly colored silicon in the shape of quacking duck bills were enough to make any snooty poodle look like a total mutt.
Designed and made in Japan.