For millennia, the dog has held a special place in human civilization. The animal that in ancient Egypt was said to represent a deity is now one of the most popular pets in the world. And, in a few days’ time, it will be celebrated anew as we enter another Year of the Dog.
And what a celebration it is shaping up to be – especially in Japan. New Year’s Day is traditionally observed in the Land of the Rising Sun with highly aesthetic and carefully crafted meals known as “osechi ryori.” This cuisine is also designed to represent special messages of happiness and celebration in abundance for the season, as well as last the first few days of the new year. Served in stacked lunchboxes known as “jubako,” they include such delicacies as skewered prawns (symbolizing long life for their resemblance to bearded old men) and konbu (which sounds like “yorokobu,” the word for “joy”).
And, in 2018, Japan’s dog-owners are once again making sure that their pooches will be taking part in the celebrations. Meet the latest thing in canine cuisine: osechi for dogs. This is another specialized category on Rakuten’s online marketplace that is generating a lot of attention.
Not to be outdone by the human versions, osechi for dogs is delivered in smart black lunchboxes. Some vendors emphasize their use of “all natural ingredients,” without sweeteners or coloring. Some meals feature organic vegetables. And then there’s the meat: chicken and seafood pate, lamb chops, fried pork or boneless salmon steaks. One vendor even offers black soybeans – a dish generally included in the human version – with a spectacular sprinkle of gold powder. Yes, gold powder.
For dessert, the choices continue. Some vendors offer a “chocolate cake” made of bean paste, strawberries, banana and pineapple. Others feature bean-based “ice cream” or vegetable-based “cake.”
With the New Year rapidly approaching, Rakuten’s canine cuisine specialists are doing a brisk trade. One even reports tripling their sales of dog osechi over last year.
And it turns out that New Year’s meals are not the only way that dog-owners pamper their pets. Below is a sample of some other more extravagant services on offer, from Japan and around the world:
Nail art for dogs – Japan
Gone are the days of the simple mani-pedi. With the explosive popularity of nail art in Japan, a visit to the salon these days is akin to a stop at Picasso’s studio. Or should we say, ‘Pupcasso?’ Some nail artists around the country are introducing services for a canine clientele. Next time you are in Japan, be sure to check out the well-groomed masterpieces strolling the streets of Tokyo.
Christmas Dinner for dogs – UK
Dog lovers in the U.K. who didn’t want their pets to miss out on the Christmas festivities were able to share gifts in the latest trend in Western culinary indulgence – a dog version of turducken (a three bird roast packed with turkey, duck, goose and “and all the trimmings”).
Canine cologne – US/UK
What do the terms “Fetch,” “Sexy Beast,” “Old Spike” and “Kennel No.5” have in common? They’re the brand names of various fragrances designed specifically for dogs, of course. Our favorite has to be “Santa Paws,” which is described as a “delightful orange and cinnamon fragrance.”
Non-human residents? – Spain
While not quite up to the level of Ancient Egpyt, one town in Spain holds its pets in extremely high regard. In a story that recently gained global attention, the Spanish hamlet of Trigueros del Valle officially recognized dogs and cats as “non-human residents,” according them virtually identical status to its human residents. Although the move was largely seen as a deterrent against bullfighting, we still can’t think of a more dignified gift than citizenship to bestow upon your furry friend.
With the new year set to begin next week, we hope this list serves as inspiration. Happy Year of the Dog!