I have been studying Japanese since I was about 10 years old and so, naturally, I developed an interest in Japanese dogs. There are two Japanese breeds who have become quite popular in America lately, the akita and the shiba (the “inu” suffix that you see is the Japanese word for “dog”). Akitas burgeoned in popularity in the 1980s, along with rottweilers, dobermans, and other “masculine” dogs to complete your tough-guy image. Shibas, however, are adorable, foxy little dogs who have been making their own rapid rise in popularity (no thanks in part to the live Shiba puppy cam).
In 2008, I had the opportunity to live and study in Tokyo for the summer. Naturally, one of my favorite facets of living there was observing the life of the Japanese dog. The Japanese are very serious about their dogs. Per their national industry of kawaii (cute), the dogs there are always very cute. The shiba is no exception, as you can see. Shibas were extremely popular in Tokyo. For a comparison, the shiba is to Japan what the lab is to the United States: they’re extremely ubiquitous. (The Japanese also appeared very partial to dachshunds and Shetland sheepdogs.)
I’ve seen a handful of shibas in Charlottesville, actually, but have not spent a ton of time with them. From what I know about the breed, shibas–like other northern dogs–tend to be independent and standoffish. For this reason, they can be rather difficult to train. Shibas are often quiet and clean and therefore often get the moniker of being “cat-like.” Their precious faces and portability ensure their ascension to popularity in America. I’m not sure if I’d ever get a shiba myself, but I think I ought to spend more quality time with one before I make a solid decision. Thankfully, there are a lot of great shiba blogs around to fill the void for now.