Dogs live it up in Japan

TOKYO: Life in the big city can be stressful, but Cheese managed to get her companion to take her in for some one-on-one massage to rub down her pressure points – from head to tail. 

Cheese, a six-month-old female Boston terrier, has just finished a three-month course with her owner who spent about US$4,000 (RM15,200) to learn the art of canine massage. 

“I think Cheese definitely feels the benefits of massage,” said owner Miwa Suzumiya, 32, who took her dog in to the glitzy Ginza shopping district in downtown Tokyo twice a week to learn how to massage her. 

“While getting massaged, her eyes become droopy. She relaxes. One-on-one sessions are the most effective,” she said. 

The historically warm relationship between humans and dogs is reaching a new level in Japan, with a flourishing one-trillion-yen RM35.3bil a year pet industry letting canine owners hang out with their pets at doggie massage, aromatherapy salons, mud spas and hot springs. 

Veterinarians question the clinical benefits to the animals but owners are willing to spend lavishly on their de facto family members in a society teeming with childless, unmarried young people. 

Masaru Jimbo spent about 6,000 yen (RM209) for an hour-long bath for his golden retriever and miniature dachshund at a hot spring centre. 

“I wouldn't spend that much if I were going to a hot spring. But for my dogs, the fee doesn't seem expensive,” the businessman said, laughing. “Dogs enjoy it. I like seeing them happy.” 

The centre offers full treatments of professional aromatherapy, fur cleansing, skin care and fur drying, with a package for a large dog running up to US$200 (RM760) said manager Hiroki Sasahara. 

“We get about 300 to 400 customers every week,” he said. “The number of customers has been on the rise since the centre opened in March.'' 

The Reflexology Association of Japan, which ran Cheese's massage lessons, is planning to expand its canine classes, which mainly attract women in their 20s and 30s.  

“More people nowadays are willing to spend money to care for their companion animals, as pets have truly become family members,” spokeswoman Kayo Kanagawa said. – AFP  

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