The canine gods were clearly shining on Tino the Chihuahua when he was adopted by his owner Hikari Mori – the sweet-faced 23-year-old model, TV presenter and granddaughter of Japanese fashion doyenne Hanae Mori. Tino is enjoying brunch with friends before indulging in some clothes shopping: he is one of millions of pampered dogs who call Tokyo home.
Japan is nirvana for pets, with a booming industry to cater to each and every whim of an estimated one million dogs owned by 14 percent of the national population. These islands are perhaps one of the few places on the planet where it’s better to be a dog than a human – at least that seems to be what their owners think, as a large chunk of the population is opting for pets over babies (amidst a plummeting national birth rate the nation’s dog and cat population has long eclipsed the number of children under the age of 15).
Most of Japan’s urban-living furry four-legged friends are diminutive in size – due to cramped quarters and their kawaii (cute) factor. The perks of being a pooch in Japan are as varied as they are surreal. There are yoga classes filled with real-life downward dogs tapping in to their inner Zen, dimly-lit canine spas offering stress-busting aromatherapy massages, cafés specialising in macrobiotic cupcakes for canines, and social networking sites enabling like-minded dog owners to connect and swap tips.
“So devoted are Japanese owners to their pets that one lady reportedly staged a five-star birthday party weekend for herself and her much-loved dog at the famed Peninsula Hotel, complete with a professional photo shoot.”
Other activities on offer for the nation’s dog demographic include sessions in oxygen bars – with stressed pooches placed inside a cylindrical tank for 30 minutes to get a little pick-me-up. Doggie dance classes are also popular; dogs and their owners regularly release tension by freestyle grooving to music ranging from waltzes and rumba to the odd ABBA bark-along.
So devoted are Japanese owners to their pets that one lady reportedly staged a five-star birthday party weekend for herself and her much-loved dog at the famed Peninsula Hotel in Tokyo, complete with a professional photoshoot made into a special album to commemorate every precious moment of their stay. Even respected designers are getting in on the act: Oki Sato of design brand Nendo has created a series of monochrome angular dog “igloos” accessorised with geometric ceramic bowls.
Hikari is a rising It-girl in Japan’s fast-paced celebrity world – she is the face of Coach and presents weekly celebrity cooking TV show Shin Chubo desu yo. And she’s not the first in her family to welcome a pet: “My sister has a pig and a sloth at her home,” she says. “My brother has a lizard. My mum loves frogs.”
“A 6.6lb brown and white Chihuahua named Momo famously scooped dozens of bigger dogs for a prestigious spot in the Japanese police force canine division a few years ago.”
“Because I’m the youngest, they all thought I couldn’t take care of a living creature,” Hikari continues. “But Tino came in to my life at the same time as I started work. I suddenly had more responsibilities and he helped me become more mature. He’s been good for me.”
The Chihuahua is undoubtedly the most common dog breed among Japanese owners. A flick through any of the nation’s bestselling dog mags—from luxury apparel bible Cuun to street-style snapping Inu Collection—confirms this. The peewee breed has even won the hearts of the nation’s police: a 6.6lb brown and white Chihuahua named Momo famously scooped dozens of bigger dogs for a prestigious spot in the Japanese police force canine division a few years ago.
Tino is clearly happy with his lot. A typical day might involve waking up at 8am in Hikari’s bed, then tucking in to breakfast. “I don’t buy him cupcakes,” she says. “Just normal dog food from the supermarket.”
Hikaru likes Tino’s hair colour, so doesn’t cover him up too much in clothes. That said, yesterday she bought him a purple Ralph Lauren shirt at a shop in the fashionable Harajuku district, and he looks “a real man in it.” He also has a yukata (a cotton kimono-style outfit) for matsuri (festivals).
“Yesterday she bought him a purple Ralph Lauren shirt at a shop in the fashionable Harajuku district, and he looks ‘a real man in it’.”
As is to be expected, Tino also has a lively social life. Some of his happiest moments are when he is running free at Kaihin Koen, a park in Tokyo’s Odaiba district, alongside Hikari’s sister’s two Chihuahuas, Yuki and Jezebel, endearingly referred to as his ‘cousins’.
The only days Hikari and Tino are not together? Thursdays and Fridays when she swaps the modelling life for Mandarin classes at university – and Tino has to stay home. But the rest of the time they are clearly an inseparable double act. “I just think he is so cute. I love the way his eyes are different colours,” says Hikari, stroking Tino adoringly on the head. Then they both stop, tilt their heads in synch and smile at the camera before Tino is chauffeured to his next appointment in Hikari’s handbag.
photography YASUNARI KIKUMA
styling JUNSUKE YAMASAKI
hair GO UTSUGI at SIGNO
makeup KEN NAKANO using M.A.C
production JUNSUKE YAMASAKi
photographic assistant MOMOKO MATSUKI
styling assistant RISA YAMAGUCHI
hair assistant HARUNA NAKAMURA
makeup assistant SHIORI YANAKA
production assistant RISA YAMAGUCHI
model HIKARI MORI at IMAGE and her dog TINO
special thanks to QUARRY, FunkyD plus, UP TOWN PET and ALOALO
t-shirt: stylist’s own PHEENY
skirt: TARO HORIUCHI
shoes: model’s own