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Tea Leaves

Japan puts new meaning into 'dog's life'

Once banished outdoors, canine pets benefit from social and economic changes

A dog walker in Tokyo in October 2020: Gone are the days when Japanese mainly kept canines for guarding their homes and for hunting.   © Reuters

When I was 3 years old, more than a half-century ago, our American family moved into a traditional Japanese house on the outskirts of Tokyo. Our landlord and neighbors were scandalized that we wore our shoes inside and kept our large Labrador retriever indoors on the tatami mats.

Over five decades later, shoes are still forbidden but dogs are welcome indoors in most canine-owning Japanese households. Japanese cities abound with prams containing pampered lap dogs allowed to run free in dog-friendly cafes and houses.

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