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.


    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!
    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
    brindle and size pic
    so far he only whips out the devil face with me
    taking an apple core
    hahaha what is he looking at? serious side-eye moment
    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
  • 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!
  • I found him! What a cute fat little Kai fellow!
  • Excellent sleuthing! I just remember seeing him in a brochure I picked up apparently he's part local delicacy!
    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.
  • 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!!
  • 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: 522
    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: 1893
    Welcome to the forum! And congrats on your little Kai-guy!
    Akiyama no Roushya || 秋山の狼室 ||
  • EbilEbil
    Posts: 39
    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 ~
  • jellibirdjellibird
    Posts: 12
    UPDATE!!...except this is an old update because I wrote it and then got frustrated with the HTML for posting the pictures and never posted it but the forum saved the draft so, I posted it...

    Winter is just about here and Hoshi looks more wolf-like than ever. His coat was shedding for a bit in September but quickly stopped and started to grow in thicker for the cold. I'm so amazed at how cold his paws can get! I want to get paw balm for him but I don't think they sell it at the local store. Sometimes it looks like his neck is the biggest part of him.

    Recently he's also been quite itchy. He loves rolling in grass so I got him a different bug/spot treatment didn't seem to work. I'm thinking maybe it's the cold drying out his skin because he has a bit of dander too. I think a vet visit is in order, or maybe a bath?

    I'm lucky there's a vet not too far away that speaks pretty good English. They did ask that I don't just drop in and instead make an appointment on their facebook.

    Hoshi still is growing in his adult teeth. All his little biters in the front are grown in but his canines are still baby sized. It's quite funny.

    I got him a suede bone-shaped toy with a rope handle and the first thing he did was chew the corner so the rope is only attached on one side and he pulled out all this weird straw stuffing that was inside the bone. I was wondering if there's such a thing as catnip for dogs because I might have found it.

    He's also got two squeaky toys - a soccer ball patterned bone and a tiny hedgehog - and he prefers the hedgehog, which has a quieter gentler squeak. He has a slightly larger hedgehog that makes a plastic crinkling noise and he loves cat toys.

    I've switched up his diet a little with two other types. One is Hill's puppy formula, which is so oily it's almost like a mix between a wet and dry food. I think it'd be good to give puppy's just getting off wet and even though it says it's good for puppies up to a year, I don't think it's good for Hoshi. He seems to like it though.

    I've also given him Purina One for dogs under a year of age. The pieces look like literal oil crullers but they are the least oily dog food I've seen yet. They puff up with water and seem to have chicken pieces so it's my fave so far. I'd like to find something similar to what I feed my dog in the states, something less oily but dense, but I think I'll have to keep trying dog foods. Hoshi also gets fish with his meals ;)

    In other news, I've lost so many tissue packs to this dog I'm thinking of buying a tissue case to protect them. Idk, it might be me, my other dog likes tissues too. Vet visit Vet visit puppy teeth nose below toes healthy fur?
    Post edited by jellibird at 2018-01-30 04:24:46
  • jellibirdjellibird
    Posts: 12

    Hoshi's pretty much fully grown. He weighs in at about 17 kg/37 lbs at the vet. He stayed at Inoue-san's kennel over the winter holidays when I went home to visit my family and he said that Hoshi was FAT lol, about the heaviest he should be. Compared to the other dogs at Inoue-san's kennel he's a large framed Kai, as large as his dad at least, and his waist wasn't as cinched in as the other dogs.

    I was told he needs to exercise more if he wants to show at the KKA show - which happens 2 times a year, I believe. I was also told something about meat, I think either that Hoshi needs to eat more of it or build more of it, either way I'm working on both. I'm trying to feed him more raw meat sources and step away from the kibble, so no more puppy food! He was way too big for it, even if he was technically young enough to keep eating it.

    And I've been running him about 3 km by the river while I ride my bicycle. It's not as much work as Shigeru-san gets out of his Kishu/Shikoku (3 km up the mountain and 3 km down?) but I'm trying to figure out the best route/method to exercise him. I almost regret getting a car instead of scooter because then I could have really ran him down some of the nearby mountains.

    The car is really good for long distance travel though, mainly driving Hoshi around. The other weekend I drove around the Fuji Five Lakes area with Hoshi to see some of the snow festival activities. Hoshi loves the snow and he's by far the best driving companion I could ask for. He likes to sit up in the front seat and watch where we're going. I crack the windows a little so he can smell what we're passing, which he does, but he doesn't try to stick his nose out.

    He's also so so floofy now. When I picked him up from Inoue-san's he was staying in an outdoor kennel and the vertical loft of his coat was super impressive (even if he was smelly). It's a little more smoothed down now that he's clean but he has this cute foxy ruff around his face. His little cheek marking is still hanging out, which I appreciate. I'm sure his coat isn't getting anymore brindle either but sometimes I'm still surprised by how much he has. His teeth growing in, baby canines Dropping him off for the holidays...that look he gave when I called him when i brought him to a little dinner party First snow! Just a sprinkling Bald spot on his paw...I wonder if this happened when I left him at the vet for the weekend
    Saiko village Ice Tree Festival: Frozen edge of Lake Yamanakako This is the money shot, prancing around at Yamanakako with Fuji in the background Able to get pretty far out on the frozen lake, Fuji right in front of us Snow dog BONUS video of adorable Kai puppies at Inoue-san's kennel
  • jellibirdjellibird
    Posts: 12
    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?

    You mentioned he gets spooked sometimes. [...] 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 do have insta but I don't post about Hoshi on social media, lol you guys are where I'm dumping all my exclusive puppy pics so excuse the mundane ones and the volume.

    I do have to agree, Hoshi doesn't like road grates or drainage holes, which are quite common in our neighborhood. When he had tiny paws his leg fell through one so now he'll always avoid them. He's just recently realised he's large enough to jump over them now lol
  • jellibirdjellibird
    Posts: 12

    Recently we had snow, which was very odd because quite a few people have already changed to their summer tires. The sakura will also be in peak bloom around this weekend I think. Hoshi's about the same size as 2 months ago, it's so weird to me that he's only turning 9 months old in two days.

    People always seem surprised when I tell them too. The other day I ran him out to a wholesale market that's open to the public twice a year and quite a lot of people recognised him as a Kai. He kissed a lot of people, children timidly pet him, and even a couple of old ladies said he was a bit big for a kai. I swear there's a super fluffy Kai in my neighborhood though. Hoshi's coat isn't so poofy and fluffy, I wonder if that's something that will fill out as he ages?

    I think he looks a bit thinner than when he stayed with Inoue-san over the holidays. I bought a food scale and I've been measuring out a mostly raw diet of about 300-340 grams a day to keep him around 17 kg or see if he can slim down. I think though, for his frame size, he isn't happy any lighter than 17 kg. I haven't weighed him since the vet visit in January though, so I'm mostly eyeballing him, judging his energy/activity, and weighing out his food.

    I'm glad this week I have a more relaxed schedule with the new school year coming. Idk what to do with the extra time so I'm taking Hoshi on more runs through the city. He's gotten very good at riding alongside the bicycle. Actually the other day I was pleased to see a Japanese man running his HUGE Tosa(?) next to him on his bike.

    I think Hoshi's back has tightened up a good bit, it's not as puppy loose as it was before, but I just felt his hips and there's not really any meat on him. I've been thinking more and more about if he can show or not. I'd like to do it just to see how he compares, especially while he still qualifies for "puppy class" if that's a thing in Japanese shows. I can't imagine there are a ton of well muscled dogs his age so I don't see that as an issue so long as he bulks up as an adult (I could be very very wrong though) but I'm worried his coat quality isn't very good.

    He hasn't had any intense spring shedding yet, but he's always itchy. It's been an ongoing issue since his coat started changing, but nothing really drastic has happened, he's just itchy. He gets little strands of fur wedged in his gum line from biting himself. It hasn't done anything to his skin, from what I can tell but I've noticed recently the second patch of hair on his leg he's bitten the hair short on. It took forever for the first patch to grow in. He also has dander, maybe it's just more noticeable because of his dark fur though. His chin gets very itchy, his face, everywhere. I'm used to wiping off faces after eating from doing it for my pug, but Hoshi really loves a good all over scratch - even around his eyes.

    I don't think it's bugs, baths don't seem to have any effect on his itchiness, I can't imagine it's his diet unless he's allergic to pork and chicken (these are his staples, but I'm always changing it up). I've been thinking I should take him to the vet, but I'm not sure how to explain it to them.

    Hoshi's one of the best temperament dogs I've ever met. He's super friendly, loves women and children and most guys. Still wants to greet and play with every dog he spies. He seems to have outgrown his bitey phase too. The other day an obaa-chan kept putting her finger in his mouth while he was smiling and there was no problem. He'll also kiss baby hands super gently. The only time I see that same bratty devil face he had at 2-4 months is when I blow in his ears to annoy him. He's still cuddly though, right now he's curled up next to me while I type.

    I finally decided to make a dedicated Instagram for Hoshi here:

    I plan to put up his recent stuff and slowly share the earlier months, hopefully in order. I know I follow some of you guys on my personal insta so feel free to switch over if you followed back!

    Some pics!
    Please ignore the bottle-barrier, it was a failed craft project I've yet to recycle and currently soothes my paranoia of Hoshi being prime marking age. Instead, look at that perfect "sit pretty/beg" position!!

    Recently shared my dog-love with all my students and their parents:

    If a dog is lighter than 90 lbs he's meant to be held:

    Begging for cavities, but really he just wants anything I eat:

    Does this look like stacking???

    Good shot of his brindle, pointed sickle tail, and coat texture. The glossy top-coat fur kind of ends at his ruff, the rest is tissuey puppy undercoat fur for the most part, except his tail...Maybe he's not eating properly so his coat isn't growing in right?
  • BeckyBecky
    Posts: 2
    Good to hear an update on Hoshi :) He’s a handsome fella. My oldest Kai, Sachi, had dry flakey skin on and off her first year. Not uncommon in the Kai. I got a good Omega 3 supplement and it resolved itself. My younger girl, Niah, didn’t have as much dandruff but when she blows her undercoat in the spring, her coat is similar to what you describe Hoshi has (shiny guard hairs to withers, scruffy on back half. I brush her daily and in a few months when her undercoat is done shedding, she’ll even out. Hoshi’s brindling will really come through the next couple times he sheds (this fall and spring of 2019). If his whole coat was dull I might think thyroid or nutritional deficiency but if his top coat is glossy that’s probably not the problem. Other than meat, what else do you feed him? Mine love organic canned pumpkin and cooked sweet potatoes :)

    Some possibilities for Hoshi’s itchiness...

    1. Dry skin. Add a good Omega-3 essential fatty acid supplement (Krill Oil is great if you can find it there), bathe him rarely, use a mild organic shampoo when you do, and rinse really well. You can give him a coconut oil skin treatment if you want :) Use 100% organic, cold-pressed human-grade coconut oil and apply it to the parts of his body that he scratches at the most. Also fresh Aloe Vera squeezed right from the plant is soothing and safe if he licks it.

    2. An underlying medical condition, ie. hypothyroidism, skin infection (bacterial, fungal, or parasitic - mites or allergy to flea saliva)

    3. An environmental or food allergy. Some dogs have trouble with chicken. You can try an elimination diet. If this is an allergy I would expect Hoshi to have other symptoms though, like stinky ears with a brown residue inside, maybe stinky feet, red inflamed looking skin (look at his underbelly). Use non-toxic detergent to wash his bedding (no perfumes, dyes, etc) and add 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Use non-toxic cleaners on the floors, esp where he lays the most, and rinse it really good. I use 50% water/vinegar to clean most surfaces the dogs have access to. Kinda smells but you get used to it. One other thing to consider, does he lay in grass that has had chemicals like weed killers applied to it?

    Hope this helps!

Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

In this Discussion