A Pet Owner's Guide to Foreign Language Commands in Japan
Published on: August 2, 2017 | Author: Starwood Animal Transport
The Japanese are notoriously smitten when it comes to pets. Where else (except possibly Disneyland itself) could you see a hi-rise building that sports enormous renderings of Mickey and Minnie Mouse? Where else could a cat become famous for his self-taught ability to ride the subway every day? And let’s don’t forget that international children’s rock star, Hello Kitty! Dogs are no less adored.
So if you’re relocating to Japan with your pooch or family feline, you know you’re moving into a pet-friendly environment. However, there are at least some things that will be very different compared to wherever you and your four-legged companion live now. For example, if you’re a gaijin (foreigner) in Japan, you may not speak the language. At least not yet.
Pets have it made
Dogs and cats speak a universal language among themselves, so you won’t have to worry about your pet’s ability to communicate with her own kind. Your pet uses a unique language of sounds and body movements to communicate with you, too, so you always know what she wants and how she’s feeling. Well, most of the time, anyway.
But what about human-to-pet communication? Well, presumably your pet already understands you in your native language. (If not, training starts now. There is nothing less welcome in any new country than a pet who is out of control. Especially in a culture such as Japan’s, where good manners reign supreme.) Nonetheless, you may want to learn what local dog owners are saying to their pets – or yours. You can practice on these basic commands, shown in both hiragana (characters) and romaji (anglicized version), with pronunciation:
- Sit おすわり osuwari (oh-soo-WAH-ree)
- Stay まて！ mate (MAH-tay)
- Lie down ふせ fuse (foo-say)
- Come こい koi
- Come (kinder version) おいで oide (oh-EE-day)
- No だめ dame (DAH-may)
- Drop it はなせ hanase (hah-nah-say)
- Good dog! いいこ iiko (eee-ko)
- Hand おて ote (oh-tay), used like “touch” command
So what if you don’t speak Japanese! This is a perfect reason to meet other pet owners and learn dog commands in your new language. (We say dog commands, because let’s be honest: when was the last time your cat obeyed a “command” from you? It’s her job to issue the orders, your job to get busy fulfilling her wish-of-the-moment.)
Once you meet up with other pet owners (there are plenty of places to do that), you can watch and learn. Use hand gestures to ask questions, if necessary. It’s fun. Besides, you’ll quickly discover that many Japanese speak at least some English. And along that same line, many types of signage display English as well as Japanese characters.
Pets have it made in other ways, too
If your pet is a fashionista, she will love, love, LOVE Japan. Stores abound where she can pick out outfit after outfit, including pajamas and pantaloons. What can we say? If your pet would rather die than wear clothes, she’s still in luck – and so are you – because Japan has a good supply of dog cafés.
Yes, there are cat cafés where you can go to pet the resident felines, but Japanese dog cafés are there to serve the both of you. Your beloved pup may never have tasted doggie bento, but you can be sure she will develop a taste for it.
You may face challenges beyond the language barrier
Since 2003, the Japanese pet population has increased more than the birth rate. Even so, it can still be tough to find pet-friendly rentals. Building owners are concerned about damage. Thanks to burgeoning pet ownership, though, demand is opening the door to more living communities where pets are allowed. Some even have associated amenities such as dog play areas.
Nonetheless, you’re likely to find your accommodations substantially smaller than what you’ve been used to. Everything in Japan is compact. Oddly enough, large dogs are popular anyway, so don’t worry if your pooch is a bigger breed. Less indoor space is just one of the adaptations your pet will have to make, but you can take steps to acclimate her to her new surroundings as smoothly as possible.
Naturally, you and your pet will be expected to exhibit fastidious behavior in public. A leash for your dog is a must. And at least one Japanese dog trainer recommends you carry absorbent “pee pads” as well as poop bags when you leave home.
A picture’s worth 1000 words, in any language
Who invented the cellphone? The Japanese. Who is more obsessed than the Japanese with using their phone to take selfies? No one. So if you’re moving to the Land of the Selfie, by all means plan to blend in by taking plenty of your own shots – with your pet, of course. We’ve written an article that offers some great tips on getting that “OMG, so cute!” picture to share with everyone back home.
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