Meet Hoshi
  • Hey everyone! This is kind of a master post on how I got interested in nihonken. If you just want to hear about Hoshi, skip to the break!

    I currently live in Kofu, the capital of Yamanashi prefecture in Japan. Before coming over I really wanted to bring my 9 year old pug, Theo. The import process for animals into Japan is very stringent because they're a rabies-free country. Even so, I'm here for more than a year and wanted my dog with me. He's taken care of at home but I'm sure every pet parent can attest "mother knows best" and no one cares for your dog as much as you do.

    Eventually, I decided the international flight would be too much stress for him at his age and it would be even worse on the way back when I moved home. Plus, I would have to fly him across country to the east coast and in general American airlines are nightmarish when it comes to pets. I honestly think anytime an animal survives a flight out of cabin they're playing russian roulette, but there's honestly no way to cross the Pacific otherwise - I've checked... (even freighters don't allow pets, all animal cargo transports are by plane, and as far as I know private pet friendly options extend as far as Hawaii - that's it). I figured that was the end of it, but I did get an apartment that allows dogs, which is kind of a rarity, so I couldn't stop thinking about it. America isn't hard to import animals into, especially from a rabies-free country.

    I started researching Japanese dogs and found out about the four breeds other than the Akita and Shiba and was astounded that there's a breed native to where I was living, the Kai region of Japan! I figured there's got to be a lot of Kai-ken around if they're the local breed. Actually, Kai City and the Kofu Ventforet soccer team have Kai-ken as their mascots. Once I knew about them I was so excited to see them! There's a handful of them scattered around my neighborhood, I saw one at an archery range in the next town over, and after I got Hoshi most people realize he's a kai-ken (unless they think he's a shiba, but he's still a puppy so ok).

    It was a nice thought but I wasn't sold on buying a dog, or even getting a puppy, much less a Kai. Kishu really appealed to me too, as I rarely see fluffy all white dogs and the name sounds really cute (kind of shallow, but hey aesthetics are a real factor). I was also browsing dog rescue groups. Most of the ones that are English-friendly are concentrated in the larger cities of Tokyo and Osaka. There's a rescue group that is responsible for rehoming animals from a pretty bad earthquake a few years ago, that's pretty much the go-to for adoption.

    A lot of shelters?/adoption groups will transport dogs from far away if you're willing to take them but there is a lot of oversight and application/placement processes are highly involved. A lot of shelters don't have web support. It's hard to find resources if you're not searching for them in Japanese. A lot of the time you have to find out about things through word of mouth, going out and meeting people and asking them how you can adopt, where, etc. Calling on the phone in Japanese and setting up appointments to see dogs. It's daunting. I only managed to find out what I could through google translate and trawling the web as much as I could.

    Somehow I managed to find the city owned shelter for where I live. They actually had a leggy red Kai (like one of the shika types if you wanna go off that) that I was pretty interested in. I looked through the site as much as I could and from what I could tell you needed to call to set up an appointment to meet the dogs and then you took a dog ownership class and then you could adopt. I firmly believe these are valuable practices and they serve a purpose, but for me they were crazy hurdles. Between the language barrier and my work schedule I was considering just showing up at the shelter and seeing if they could even accommodate/understand me (maybe not the most polite method but better to ask forgiveness than permission). Maybe they would prefer only Japanese families adopt their dogs.

    Which brings me to another point. When dealing with adoption most of the groups are private foster organizations or people rehoming their pets before giving them over to a shelter. They call the pets "baby" or aka-chan, because they really are family members. Sometimes they require adoptee applicants to live within a certain area nearby, to not be elderly, living alone, a couple who might expect a baby, etc. They really want to place pets in nuclear family situations, which is absolutely idyllic and in a perfect world every pet would have a wonderful home where lots of people could make sure they got the attention, stability, and care they needed. Even so, for people like me - singles - and probably the elderly too, a pet would be a cherished companion. Although I did see a number of pets that needed to be rehomed once their elderly owners passed and the dog no longer had a guardian, so every precaution has it's place.

    By this time I was well aware of the nihonken forum and Shigeru's Japan Dog Export. I decided to reach out to him and see if he could work with me on getting a dog while I was still here. Honestly, it was such a relief to talk to someone with his level of expertise and English fluency. Speaking with him, reading his blog and this forum, has given me a picture of the nihonken community, but I know it's not a complete one because I haven't been actively participating.

    I had actually been looking at mameshiba as well and let me tell you, those are expensive dogs. In fact all Japanese dogs are expensive, adopted ones, rehomed ones, pet store ones, breeder ones. Just because a dog is local doesn't mean it'll be cheap. I was looking around at other kennels in Yamanashi though because it was "puppy season". There was a fellow I spoke to in the next town over who had cheaper puppies, but in the end I went with the litter Shigeru found because I felt like there would be less confusion between me and the breeder if he could translate for us. Idk, I guess I was just hoping for a breeder/support network I could rely on for as long as my dog and I are here.

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    Hoshi is my 4 month old kai-ken! He's bred by Inoue-san in Saitama prefecture. His kennel name is Bansho. His brother Banryuu is in the states somewhere right now too. He was born June 29th (which is just a few days after my birthday actually). He's a kuro-tora, or very dark chuo-tora, and he's a big boy for his age. I just measured him as best as I could and he's about 43 cm at the withers. I swear he was tiny for a few weeks and then all of a sudden he's a long and tall fatty.

    He's a very playful puppy and he actually seems to really love meeting new people and dogs. On rare occasions he has gotten spooked and peed himself (for example my friend thought it'd be cute to toss him onto her bed, or a car turned down the street towards us while we were in the middle and he popped a squat) I guess you could say he does better when he can explore and initiate the interaction himself rather than when he's surprised (but who doesn't?). He likes kids and honestly only seems to be a mouthy brat with me and my clothes. He loves socks and slippers and swishy pants and skirts. He's incredibly quiet, never seems to bark unless he's distressed, not at the neighbors or people walking by or couriers who deliver mail. He likes to peek out the window and watch people walk around. During the day he naps a lot.

    Recently I guess I've been seeing his prey drive - he caught a praying mantis the other day and loves chasing leaves. He'll also chase balls, bubbles, cattails, and swishy pieces of grass. Other than chewing and some potty accidents he's been a really great puppy. Still doesn't like sleeping in his crate or tolerate nail clippings well (need to work on that).

    He's a good eater and I probably feed him some things I shouldn't, but my pug eats anything as well, so I often give him fruit; persimmons, pears, apples, banana - veggies; carrot or bok choy so far - meat cuts; pork, chicken, fish sometimes grains like rice or bread. I looked up grain free kibble brands in Japan and even though I generally don't like Iams they recommended a (sweet potato?) chicken puppy feed from them so I've been giving him that with meat cuts for his meals, but it's quite oily so I'm looking to replace it with something less like an oil crueller.

    Something I absolutely knew I wanted before I got him was to train him to ride on a bike with me. I don't have a car and go everywhere by bike so I had him riding in the basket a few days after I got him. It's a bit harder to get him in now that he's getting longer and heavier (I swear his back legs are twice as long as his front, like a frog) but he's actually generally good about riding and doesn't try to jump out or move too much. He seems to enjoy looking at where we're going and will crane his head around me to see (because I mostly put him in the rear basket on the luggage rack for stability). He also tolerates the bungee net I put over him to make sure he doesn't break for it.

    Speaking of jumping he's great at it. My pug didn't have a physique conducive to athletic feats - I always worried about his knee joints - but Hoshi has a really solid utilitarian physique. He thrives on any physical activity I throw at him so I'd just love more ways to keep him occupied. Today I took him out to the park and had him climb up and down the river banks. I think he'd be pretty good at climbing trees too but there aren't any good angled ones around. I really hope to take him out hiking with me soon, but the mountains, as close as they seem, are really hard to get to by bike.

    As for training he's ok with sit, come, and no. Sometimes I throw Japanese at him because that's what people will speak to him out on our walks and for the most part he seems to get it (Idk, maybe I'm using the same action commands and that's what he's going off of.) Idk if dogs can be bilingual with their commands but so far it isn't hurting to try. Right now I'm working on spin, beg, down, wait, and always always on recall. He's better on spin and wait than he is on down (low success) and beg (poor balance), and his recall is generally good. It's a combo of things but I let him off leash at the park and he'll usually listen if I call him or tell him no when he tries to explore. He seriously loves chasing me so that'll usually get his attention if recall doesn't and I tend to take him out when others aren't around so, no distractions and less limitations. My pug's best trick is an army crawl so we'll see if I can't train Hoshi up to some jumps or something (double dutch? japanese dog catch?).

    A breed characteristic I really love about Hoshi is how companionable he is. He always wants to be in the same room with me and cuddles right up to my leg. I'm uncertain if this'll continue but I guess it's something I like in my pets, having him also be very sociable with other people and dogs has been a real unexpected boon as well.

    I don't post pics of him on social media but here are some photos starting from oldest to newest!
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/iVZ2izDJ5Gr2Plt82
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/AIbXk1YBwhwOsOz23
    went to a fire festival first day I had him
    first park visit, loved the kids
    riding in the basket
    the beginning of his people watching hobby
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/woejTMTrd64FFKOY2
    brindle and size pic
    so far he only whips out the devil face with me
    taking an apple core
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/G7jSXSSW2ufQLwNT2
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/dsGST9mWgMDPT1sm2
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/Tf2uJVVPpoAitCJA3
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/7uEXthMJ5Mg34k7C2
    hahaha what is he looking at? serious side-eye moment
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/zRAPdcGMtJ9tVGLm2
    rummaging in the grass in the rain nomming on cattails
    got this costume for him, not sure if it's too big or too small
    Inoue-san showing Asahi, Hoshi's dad, in center
    Post edited by jellibird at 2017-10-30 17:11:15
  • WrylyBrindleWrylyBrindle
    Posts: 3232
    Aw- Hoshi is so cute- and I love this star pillow. (appropriate!)
    Also I want you to know that I read and enjoyed your WHOLE post! :)

    I have had a 19 year career of designing animal sports logos, so I am super curious about the Kai City mascot, if you have an image or a link. I have seen the Ventforet soccer ones (I don't think they look as much like actual Kai dogs, so I am hoping Kai City has a better Kai mascot!) There's a cute Kishu police mascot in Japan, too.

    I'm glad you and Hoshi are having so much fun together!
  • WrylyBrindleWrylyBrindle
    Posts: 3232
    I found him! What a cute fat little Kai fellow! https://www.facebook.com/yahatainu/
  • Excellent sleuthing! I just remember seeing him in a brochure I picked up apparently he's part local delicacy!
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/nsOpT3xnDFw6cq2X2
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/MrCqitvafjXpnQw43
    This is also a pic of the ventforet mascots and another one for Takeda Shingen I guess. It's not a full pic but I suspect it's also a kai, since he was known as the Tiger of Kai.
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/KeJuXSmacixQbofB2
  • WrylyBrindleWrylyBrindle
    Posts: 3232
    Is yahata-imo a yam? Translation says "Japanese tubers"
    I think he is a yam-dog.

    I didn't know about Takeda Shingen either. So much to learn! :)

    Anyway- I don't want to detract any further from the actual STAR of this post- Hoshi!
    Welcome to our NKF Kai Family!
  • Yeah, he does look like a tuber/taro root.

    Talking about Yamanashi is kind of fun too. I think of it kind of like the Florida of Japan, if you could replace the naval history/geography aspects with like, mountain/battle/onsen history/geography.

    Good one! Hoshi actually has a few different star-themed doggy items around. I have quite a few pillows - shiba, cat, fish, tree, poofs - and he actually started playing with the star pillow early on. It was kind of like the dog version of "babies choose their starter pokemon". It still took me the longest time to decide a call name for him. I'm hella indecisive, so he actually had a few different call names before Hoshi (he still answers to the first one) but I'm very satisfied with it.

    His kennel name Bansho, translates to something like sunset, or "night shining/looking". His dad's name Asahi also means sunrise, so it all kind of meshes. And because of my schedule I'm often up late and therefore he is too. Even though his night vision kind of sucks lol we still go out for walks and to the park. Plus his coat, some of his lighter fur stands out even in dim light, like stars shining in the dark sky (cheesy poetic, I know).

    Thank you for the warm welcome!!
  • WrylyBrindleWrylyBrindle
    Posts: 3232
    My Kai are also out of Inoue-san's kennel, through their mothers. Shigeru used to hunt with Juno's mother, Haruhime. Inoue-san is a great Kai man.

    Hoshi is a very good boy to stay in the basket. I don't bike much, as I live in the mountains where bicycling is half "way too much work," and the other half terrifying descents. Neither of which I want to share with a dog. BUT- I do like to take my Kai with me everywhere they are welcome as well- on car rides, errands, to town when we go, mostly hiking in the woods, sometimes hunting and tracking. They are pretty curious and observational without raising a ruckus about things. Kai are really fine sidekicks, I find.
  • zandramezandrame
    Posts: 511
    Hello! Good to see you here! We have an Asahi daughter born last year. I have a thread around somewhere, but mostly post pics on instagram. Do you have an IG?

    Hoshi looks great! Sounds like his temperament is nice too, a bit more calm than our girl, lol. Mayaa would not sit still for something like a ride in a bike basket! She's also not a huge cuddler.

    You mentioned he gets spooked sometimes. Take note of what sets him off, and try to give him an easy way to escape or retreat and approach at his own pace (like you said!), and reassure him if it's safe (give food or comfort). Puppies bounce back relatively easily, but once something is deemed "too scary," Kai don't forget, and more so than the other NK, can be a flight risk. I don't mean to nag, but say this because despite our best intentions, Mayaa does have a small number of "big fears" I wish she didn't!

    I hope to hear more about him as he grows up! :)

  • CrispyCrispy
    Posts: 1833
    Welcome to the forum! And congrats on your little Kai-guy!
    Akiyama no Roushya || 秋山の狼室 || www.kishu-ken.org
  • EbilEbil
    Posts: 33
    Welcome and oh my goodness what a cutie!

    Dogs are so smart! I've trained my past dog in English, Chinese (for my parents) and hand signals.
  • Welcome! Hoshi is adorable :)
    Apricity Kennel Hokkaido Ken
    ~ Located in Northern Virginia, USA ~
    www.apricityhokkaido.weebly.com
    www.facebook.com/apricityhokkaido
    apricityhokkaido@gmail.com

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