Land of the Rising Sun: The Japanese Miracle

Japan began holding Western-style dog shows in the second half of the 1900s.

BIS at FCI Asian International show 2000 was Siberian Husky Ch. Generous JP Prime Stage. The judge was Uwe Fischer from Germany.

According to Wikipedia, “the Japanese miracle” was the name given to the historical phenomenon of Japan’s record period of economic growth between post-World War II to the end of the Cold War. During the economic boom, Japan — with substantial help from the US — grew to become the world’s second largest economy, after the United States. Suddenly we all were driving Japanese cars, using Japanese electronic appliances and admiring the Japanese emphasis on thrift, education and hard work that later resulted in Japanese students being perceived as the brightest of their generation.

The period of growth came to an end with the bursting of the Japanese price bubble in 1991. This was followed by the “Lost Decade” (1991-2000) and the cautious economic recovery in recent years.

In the dog world, the “Japanese miracle” has been no less sensational, perhaps taking a little longer in coming to fruition, but showing few signs of slowing down as far as the impact on the world scene is concerned — especially the United States. Those of us who have been around for a long time may remember the Chikuken company that contacted a large number of well-known breeders in the West trying to purchase breeding pairs of purebred dogs for an industrial-type breeding operation. That did not end well; Japan did not have a strong early tradition of Western-style dog ownership and, for a long time, there existed a certain stigma in the West around exporting dogs to Japan. The Japan Kennel Club has done a fantastic job in turning things around and educating the general public about the value of family pets, and the change in people’s perception of pet dogs in just a few decades has been remarkable. I remember visiting the JKC offices in Tokyo in the 1990s, still a little wary after reports of the Chikuken debacle, and being completely won over by what JKC’s initiative of a drawing competition for schoolchildren had netted: hundreds of colorful puppies with kids portrayed in an obviously loving manner.

For both cultural and linguistic reasons, it was long difficult for US breeders to communicate freely with Japanese buyers, and many dogs were exported through professional Japanese dealers who varied greatly in how they dealt with both US customers and native buyers. I remember a friend in another breed innocently selling one of her champions to Japan. Then she didn’t hear a word for many years and worried herself sick … until she much later visited Japan and found the dog, now ancient, living as a pet on the couch of an adoring family with children.

As late as in 1999, when I sent a puppy to a Japanese friend whom we had known for many years, there were a few raised eyebrows. The dog had a wonderful home, lived a long, happy life, sired a handful of beautiful litters in his home country (of which several finished in the US) and died of old age in his owner’s arms just a few years ago.

dog show

BIS at FCI Asian International show 1999, Pembroke Welsh Corgi Ch. Lorien’s It’s A Guy Thing, was imported from the US. BIS judge was Rainer Vuorinen from Finland.

Japan began holding Western-style dog shows in the second half of the 1900s. The JKC was founded in 1949, adopted its present name in 1952, and didn’t become a member of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale until 1979. Its entry into the global dog scene was formalized when Tokyo, as the first Asian country ever, was chosen to host the FCI World Show in 1982. Best in Show was a Yorkshire Terrier, Ch. Fujimiland Julia, bred in Japan by Fusako Nagasawa and owned by Chieko Matsunago of Osaka. There were 1,400 dogs entered at this show, only a fraction of the 8,800 at the previous year’s World Show held in Germany, but twice as many as at the one in Mexico City two years later. At least since the 1990s, the most important show in the country has been the FCI Japan International show held in Tokyo in April every year (cherry-blossom time!), sometimes replaced by the FCI Asian International, and usually with around 2,500 dogs entered.

Japanese-bred dogs already were beginning to attract international notice in the 1980s. One of the first was a Pomeranian, Ch. Daim Of Sushimoto At Cygal, that set new breed records in England. He was not the only one of that breed from Japan to become a champion in the UK, which was the result of a close cooperation between the legendary British breeder Gladys Dyke and the Japanese, primarily Kazu Igarashi. Igarashi inherited Dyke’s famous Hadleigh prefix after her death in 1997 and won BIS at the FCI Asian International show in 2003 with Ch. Hadleigh Sweet Serenade.

In the US, it first was Toy Poodles that made people sit up and notice Japan as a dog country. When the white Ch. Dignity Of Jewely House Yoko won the Toy Group at Westminster in 1998 under Frank Sabella, it was just a forerunner of what was to come. Dignity was shown and co-owned by Kaz Hosaka, himself born in Japan but for many years now one of the top professional Poodle handlers in the US. In 2007 and 2008, the white bitch Ch. Smash JP Win A Victory won back-to-back Toy Groups at Westminster, and in 2010 Ch. Smash JP Moon Walk made it a fourth win for white Japanese Toys — all with Kaz at the other end of the lead. ‘Vicky’ was also No. 1 Dog of All Breeds in 2008, and the fact that she was not the first Japanese Toy Poodle to do so is quite remarkable. The white male Ch. North Well Chako JP Platina King did the same in 2004, handled by Tim Brazier. What are the odds that two dogs of the same breed, and from the same foreign country, should score so high in the US?

Top-winning Papillons followed, most of them with the Queen Bless prefix, including several Papillon Club of America National Specialty and Westminster BOB winners. In more recent years, it probably would be easier to list breeds in which there have NOT been Japan-born winners in the US. The early emphasis on Toy dogs has morphed to include breeds as diverse as Siberian Huskies and Borzoi, two of the most successful show breeds in Japan. Over the last 10 years, Japan’s premier dog show has been won four times by Borzoi (all either imported from the US by Belisarius or bred by that kennel), twice by Siberian Huskies (both bred by the Misanga kennel), twice by white Toy Poodles (one from Smash, the other from North Well Chako), and only once, in 2007, by another breed, a Japan-bred Border Collie. The 2011 show was canceled due to the devastating earthquake, but it was a Misanga Siberian Husky that was chosen to represent Japan at the Eukanuba World Challenge that year.

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BIS at FCI Asian International show 1997, Golden Retriever Ch. Puddleby Palace JP Lake Hunter, with judge Dr. Robert Berndt from the US.

According to the most available figures, the JKC registered 326,015 dogs in 2013 (325,769 of them puppies from 115,099 litters). This is a big drop from the peak of well over half a million registrations per year in the early 2000s, indicating that the Japanese are experiencing similar problems to those facing purebred dog lovers in the US. There were 255 shows in 2013 at which national CACs were awarded and 15 FCI international shows where CACIBs could be won. The JKC had 83,315 members, 122 judges and 918 breed clubs. A total of 14,196,703 dogs had been registered, while the number of dogs (purebred or not) in Japan was estimated to be approximately 11 million.

The Top Dog Show In Japan

The most important dog show in Asia, the FCI Asian International, was held in Japan every April until recent years. Since then, other Asian countries have taken turns hosting this show, so JKC started having an FCI Japan International Show each spring instead. Last year, it was JKC’s turn to hold the FCI Asian International Show, so there was no FCI Japan International Show. However, it’s pretty much the same thing — more than 2,500 entries every year, mostly from Japan, some from Korea, China, etc. And the BIS winner gets an invitation to the Eukanuba World Challenge.

BIS winners at this show:

2015: Borzoi Ch. Belisarius JP My Sassy Girl
2014: Siberian Husky Ch. Misanga JP Coffer
2013: Borzoi Ch. Golightly’s Big Day (imp. US)
2012: Siberian Husky Ch. Misanga JP Lavender
2011: Canceled due to the earthquake; the World Challenge Invitation was given to BIS of the second-biggest show, FCI Tokyo International Show, Siberian Husky Ch. Misanga JP Sky Blue
2010: Borzoi Ch. Sunburst Huntsman At Mechta (imp. US)
2009: Borzoi Ch. Jubilee Celestial Lumination (imp. US)
2008: Toy Poodle Ch. Smash JP Talk About
2007: Border Collie Ch. Border Lane JP Moonshining
2006: Toy Poodle Ch. North Well Chako JP Marble Queen
2005: Maltese Ch. Riverside King’s Sweet Emblem
2004: Keeshond Ch. Masada’s Trumpet Player (imp. North America)
2003: Pomeranian Ch. Hadleigh Sweet Serenade
2002: Toy Poodle Ch. Smash JP Samba De Amigo
2001: Pembroke Welsh Corgi Ch. Larchmont’s Michael (imp. North America)
2000: Siberian Husky Ch. Generous JP Prime Stage
1999: Pembroke Welsh Corgi Ch. Lorien It’s A Guy Thing (imp. North America)
1998: Golden Retriever Ch. Nautilus Sugar Smacks (imp. North America)
1997: Golden Retriever Ch. Puddleby Palace JP Lake Hunter
1996: Siberian Husky Ch. Innisfree’s Ice T (imp. North America)
1995: Shih Tzu Ch. Dragon Fall Miwa JP Oh My Good
1994: Cocker Spaniel Ch. Misty Wood JP Wishing Star
1993: Shetland Sheepdog Ch. Sweet Evening of Fortune
1992: Afghan Hound Ch. Oreia Instnt Replay Sumrwnd (imp. North America)
1991: Saluki Ch. Wisdom’s James Bros Franky (imp. North America)
1990: Siberian Husky Ch. Satari’s Pride N Joy (imp. North America)


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