"The Nihon Ken, our country's aboriginal canine breed, has a long history as a hunting dog, and companion. From 1931-1937 these native dogs were classified by the government as 'Tennenkinenbutsu', national treasures. From bone fragments and haniwa pottery unearthed from the Jomon Period, we are able to surmise the roots and the type of these dogs. Through comparison, we are able to see that the native dogs have survived for generations without losing their primitive type. One could say the Nihon Ken is a living cultural heritage. 6 types have been preserved, and living all throughout Japan, they are indelibly entwined in the Japanese lifestyle."
The words in the first paragraph are borrowed from the website of the Nihon Ken Hozonkai. The Nihon Ken of today is usually a pet or a show dog. While the Shiba Inu and Akita Inu are fairly well known, the medium size Nihon Ken have been steadily decreasing in number, with several heading toward extinction. The Shikoku, Kishu, Hokkaido, and the Kai are referred to as the medium type Nihon Ken. Currently in Japan, toy breeds are very popular, and most people who want to own a larger dog prefer Western breeds, which creates a very dire situation for the Japanese breeds. In contrast, the Nihon Ken is starting to rise in popularity overseas. The temperament and expression of the Nihon Ken is unique and unlike what is seen in Western breeds. The world is now appreciating these Japanese breeds that have evolved on this island country with the climate and people over thousands of years. Perhaps it's about time that these national treasures experience a resurgence in their native country?
The medium size Nihon Ken has an image as a hunting dog here in Japan, and hunting dogs have a reputation as being dangerous and difficult to own. We feel that the opposite is true. A great hunting dog is a great companion. Written into the Nihon Ken standard is "ryosei" which roughly translates to "of a good nature". As such, a good hunting dog is not dangerous. It is able to quickly take stock of situations, and take action while communicating with its owner. This to us, encapsulates the entirety of the hunting Nihon Ken. The best hunting dog makes the best partner.
Awa Yamainu Sou is located in the hill country of Tateyama city, Chiba prefecture. With the increasing population of wildlife, and the subsequent increase in crop damage, we are working to preserve and pass on the bloodlines of the hunting Nihon Ken to future generations. This is the blog of the Australian/Japanese Kato brothers, writing about their experiences in the mountains and seas of the Boso Peninsula.