Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Niiice doggy ...

Today, I was going through a box of miscellany that I brought back with me after my years in Japan. I was looking for something I want to feature in an upcoming blog post, and I came across these photos.
They're of Tosa-ken, a breed of Japanese fighting dog that can weigh more than 150 pounds. They're ranked just like sumo wrestlers and, like their human counterparts, their matches consist of trying to power each other out of a circular ring, but with the (not so) occasional bite thrown in for good measure (something they must've learned from Mike Tyson).
Highly ranked doggies get to wear the same sort of decorative aprons that human sumo stars wear.
They're named after Tosa, a former province on Shikoku --the smallest of Japan's four main islands and my favorite part of the country. Fighting roosters with super-long tail feathers also are bred there.
And you thought Japanese culture was all about genteel things like the tea ceremony and gentle things like origami.
In Tosa, people don't mess around. (Actually, Tosa, now called Kochi prefecture, is an exceedingly cool place, and the hospitality is wonderful. Just don't mess with their dogs. Or their roosters.)
There was a Tosa-ken kennel about a half-hour drive down the road from my house in rural Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo. A teacher colleague of mine told me the kennel was run by yakuza -- Japanese gangsters -- but the staff seemed nice enough to me. They told me to take photos to my heart's content, something I would think gangsters would discourage.


Michael said...

No, no, Greensleeves, I was lectured by the doggies!

Green said...

I didn't know the detail about Tosa dog and the relationship with Yakuza. How brave you are!
I was lectured by you, thank you.

LBseahag said...

Their gorgeous... I could sure use one walking in my neighborhood...

awesome that all of us bloggers learned something new today...this is a class we will never want to ditch...

Michael said...

Hi LB,

They seemed like nice doggies, just really big. And loud.

g said...

Tosa-ken. Who would have known. These dogs look big and strong but I want to pet them. I guess that's not a good idea.

Did you see any of the fights?

I don't get how the dogs would know that the match is over.

Michael said...

Hi g,

No, I never saw any of the dog or rooster fights. I just read descriptions of them. On Shikoku, they also have fighting bulls that do combat in the same way the dogs do. With the dogs, once one is defeated, I guess the handlers step in.
The doggies in the kennel seemed pretty detached and aloof -- but if I spent most of my waking hours lying on a sheet of plywood in a cinderblock-walled cage with thick bars, I'd be miserable, too.
I remember their bark as being VERY loud, and bark they did when I approached. But I think animals can sense when a person means them harm and when we come in peace, so they quieted down pretty quickly and allowed their pictures to be taken.