Vegder's Blog

October 2, 2011

PUPPIES, PUPPIES, PUPPIES – Part Four: Not Quite the Zodiac – The Dog – inu – 戌

Before you move on to dogs and puppies, I thought you might want to know that I have been updating my most recent skulls and bones post. If you are among the curious go there and look for the section on the bones of Adam or nascentes morimur. There will be several additions and I have just begun to get to it. So… like everything else I do please try to be patient with me. I’m only human – or so the rumor goes. Below is a teaser:

   © Trustees of the British Museum

You will find it at:    – that is, if you are interested.

Now, back to the subject at hand:

  I found this at commons.wikimedia, but it was originally posted at Flickr by delta16v. This is a shiba inu 柴犬 or ‘brushwood dog’. There is a woman in my neighborhood who walks her dog every day.  I stopped and asked her once recently what the dogs breed was and she told me it is a shiba inu and then she added that Ichiro owns one. Unbeknownst to her that was the impetus that got me to start this post.

A few thoughts about the shiba inu (and maybe some other Japanese breeds) – I think, and remember I emphasize the ‘I think’ part, that most experts now believe dogs evolved from wolves. That said, Mark Derr in his Dog’s Best Friend… says “Although this association is the most speculative, Canis lupus hodophilax, the extinct little Japanese wolf, probably figured in the creation of dogs like the shikoku, kai, the shiba inu, and other indigenous breeds.”

Everyone loves puppies – well, almost everyone. They bring out the awwwwwww factor in most people in the West. I can’t be sure about other places on earth – if you know what I mean, but generally they touch something in even the most hardhearted individuals around. They certainly do in me, but, hell, I cry at sad movies. (Don’t tell anyone. Let’s keep that just between you and me, okay?) For example, several years ago I went hiking and camping with friends in Banff National Park. We saw tons of wildlife from black bears and mountain goats  to marmots. However, the one which was the most surprising was a stuffed dog I spotted along the trail from Lake Louise to the Lake Agnes teahouse. Despite its look of pure innocence one can never be sure so I decided that it would be best to give this creature a wide berth and a good thing I did. I lived to write about it.

Anyway, I have to admit I was truly conflicted about even starting this post. One side of me wanted to address the topic of puppies and dogs in Japanese art, culture and history, in general and the other side kept saying don’t do it! Remember the zodiac? That has to be dealt with at some point and how are you [meaning ‘me’] going to separate to two? And, guess what, I was right. I couldn’t. So… here goes. I am now going to tackle another subject I know next to nothing about. Ignorance should be my middle name, but it isn’t. It’s Steve. But that’s not important. What is important is that hopefully by the end of this ‘puppy’ adventure I should know something new concerning this topic – and hopefully you will too.

This detail from a Hiroshige print from 1858 is one of my most favorite images of puppies in Japanese art. Too cute to ignore.

Year of the Dog 戌年, Month of the Dog, Day of the Dog, Hour of the Dog 戌ノ刻  -The dog is the eleventh sign of the Japanese zodiac, it represents 7 to 9 PM, west-northwest and now September.

Just so you will know the character for dog can be either 犬 which is used for dogs in general or 戌 which is used for the zodiac. Both are pronounced inu.

The koyomi 暦 or lunar calendar was used from the early 7th century until the adoption of the solar-based Gregorian calendar on January 1, 1873. The earlier koyomi operated very much like our Farmer’s Almanac did. It not only let farmers know when they should plant or harvest, but it advised on everything else – good, bad and indifferent.

According to an article in The Japan Times from Dec. 31, 2005 people born in a dog year  “…possess a sense of duty and obligation. You are fastidious, diligent and make a peaceful, harmonious atmosphere.” Those are the good traits. The negatives are selfishness and being stubborn.

But what if I want to get married? – According to Leon Frédéric in his entry on the horoscope says that if you were born in the year of the Rat it would be best if you married someone born in the year of the Dragon, Monkey or Ox, but you can settle for a Dog person if necessary. If you were born in the year of the Ox, Dragon or Goat stay away from Dogs. If you were born in the year of the Tiger, Rabbit or Horse a Dog would make a good match. Frédéric doesn’t tell us what a Snake,Monkeys of Boar should do – at least when it comes to Dogs. If you were born in a year of the Cock you shouldn’t trust a Dog, but at least a Dog isn’t as bad as a Rabbit.

The Hour of the Dog 7 to 9 P.M.  – Sometimes the connection with dogs is not so evident. Utamaro did a series of elegant prints in ca. 1794 which show courtesans engaged in everyday activities – everything but sex. In the upper right hand corner of each print is a late 18th century clock with the title of the individual hour – remember traditionally Japanese hours were two hours long – written on the front. Look for the inu 戌 character. It is there.

   © The Trustees of the British Museum

The Day of the Dog – In the Japan Encyclopedia by Louis Frédéric it says: “A custom according to which a pregnant woman wears a special obi called iwata-obi [岩田帯] tied around her chest on the day of the dog (Inu no Hi), starting in the fifth month of pregnancy, in order to have an easy delivery.” Below is an image I found posted at commons.wikimedia by Snorer. It is originally from the Heibonsha Encyclopedia of 1927. I tweaked the image to make it appear in the negative.

Elsewhere Frédéric lists the Day of the Dog of the 3rd Month as a bad luck day when people should not work in their fields or get married.

Demonomania – When I set out to do research on the Hour of the Dog there were lots of references, the majority in fact, to how this or that happened at that time. Most references could be easily skipped over because they appeared in modern novels or Western uses of the same term, but in a different sort of way. Then I found a fascinating book called Chinese Magical Medicine and finally something that wasn’t just fluff. For example, this book had one sentence that read: “It may turn out, upon analysis, that the wave of demonomania that swept over the Japanese aristocracy was to a large extent iatrogenic, produced by the monkish physicians themselves.” That sentence stopped me in my tracks. I hadn’t had an experience like that since I was a teenager reading an editorial in the Kansas City Star in which they used the terms ‘smarmy’ and ‘purblind’ in the same passage. Anyway, back to the topic: What is the significance of the Hour of the Dog?

It would seem that throughout South and East Asia there was only one explanation for childhood diseases and deaths – demon possession. In fact, a system developed which stated that there were 12 female demons which corresponded to the afflictions of the young from birth to the age of 12. The first female demon possessed and tormented children from the day of their birth until the age of 1. That is when the second female demon would take over until the child turned 2 and so on. The 12th female demon which had started out as a male, but was conveniently transformed into the ‘fairer’ sex, was Skanda. Skanda is a fascinating character on his own. He was originally a demon who led a group of animal demons until he was transformed into a protector of life among the Buddhist pantheon. Below is an image of him riding on his vehicle, the peacock. It is from a photo posted at commons.wikimedia by Dbalbiez and shows a Khmer sculpture now in the Musée Guimet.

To rid a child of its afflictions each demoness requires a special ceremony of incantations and preperations. Think Linda Blair and Max von Sydow in The Exorcist. Here is the formula as it pertains to the female Skanda:

Such are the preparations to be followed in the event of an attack by the mother-demon Skandā during
the twelfth day, month, or year of life. In this case, the chief symptom is a fixed and furious staring, as if
the child wanted to attack someone, and clenching of the hands and feet. The spell-possessor should
model the child’s image in barley dough; the banners this time should be red, powdered cowhorn should
be an ingredient of the fumigatory, and the consecrated offerings should be borne out of town at
the hour
of the Dog (7:00-9:00 A.M.) in an easterly direction then carried around in all four directions

before being thrown away.

This next passage is from a 1900 article by Ernest W. Clement on The Folk-Lore of Japanese Calendars:

The following items about the superstitions of seasons have been obtained from a booklet by Mr. Hachihama
on ” Superstitious Japan ” (Meishin no Nippon): If one swallows seven grains of red beans (azuki) and one go
of sake before the hour of the ox on the first day of the year, he will be free from sickness and calamity
throughout the year; if be drinks loso [spiced sake] at the hour of the tiger of the same day, he will be untouched
by malaria through the year; if he washes his armpits with his own urine at the hour of the tiger of the same day,
he will be free from offensive smell in those parts. On the 7th day of the 1st month if a male swallows seven, and
a female fourteen, red beans, they will be free from sickness all their lives ; if one takes a hot bath on the same
day, he will escape calamity. If one bathes at the hour of the dog on the tenth day [of the same month],
his teeth will become hard

It’s the zodiac stupid! – No, I don’t think you are stupid. I don’t even know you, probably. The point I am trying to make is more a note to myself since I so often stray from the topic. The dog is first and foremost a sign of the zodiac – at least traditionally. In ca. 1840 Kuniyoshi produced a series a series of prints which paired famous heroes with zodiacal signs. I have posted the one for inu below. Notice the character for dog printed in black in a red field in the upper right. The hero represented here is Hata Rokurōzaemon from the early 14th century.

The banners of the enemy, the Hōjō, are seen in the distance. In a 1922 sales catalogue of the Rouart collection Frederick Gookin states: “By the aid of his remarkably intelligent dog and a few devoted followers he captured twelve of the thirty-seven fortresses held by the Hōjō. The dog was sent to the enemy’s lines after nightfall; if he found the guards alert he came back and barked, if the watch was neglected he reported the favorable condition by wagging his tail.”

   © The Smithsonian – Freer Sackler Galleries

Did I mention faithful? An abbreviated story of Hachiko, the akita – There are numerous retellings of the story of Hachiko. So, remember what I am about to relate is not the gospel. That said, Hachiko would accompany his owner,  Professor Ueno, to the Shibuya every day and would greet him on his return at 3 PM. Then one day the professor didn’t show up. Nor did he return the next day or the next or… oh, you get the point. This went on for years. People took pity on the dog and fed and sheltered him, but each day he would return to the station and wait for his owner. His devotion became a national sensation and people would travel to Shibuya just to see, pet and feed him – for good luck. On March 7, 1935 Hachiko died at the age of 12. All of the newspapers carried the story and “A day of mourning was declared.”

Later that year a bronze statue was erected on the site where he had waited. However, like so many other statues it was melted down for the war effort. After the war a new statue, the one seen immediately below, was dedicated to this loyal pup. And now  the carcass of Hachiko can still be seen on display in a museum in Ueno Park.

  This is my altered picture of a statue of Hachiko at Shibuya. The original was posted at Flickr by Soberch.

  Here is the same Hachiko – sort of – after having visited the taxidermist and now on display at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno. This image was posted at commons.wikimedia by Muramasa.

So, I know you are asking yourself, at this very moment “When was the first dog represented in a Japanese woodblock print?” Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t know. However, I am going to try to find out. Until then, what I can tell you is this – Harunobu (春信: 1725-70), the artist who probably created the first multi-colored (nishiki) prints in the 1760s and 70s included images of dogs in quite a few of his works. Some of these dogs represented the real thing and some of them were imaginary. Below you will see what I mean.


Begging for a treat – How many times every day do Americans tell their dogs to sit, fetch, play dead, roll over or beg? Who could count that high. Sometimes one has to wonder whose behavior is more greatly modified, the dog’s or the owner’s? The Harunobu print shown below could just as easily be a scene from a contemporary household down the street or maybe even yours – with just a few changes like clothing, etc. It seems that some things haven’t never really change.

   © The Smithsonian – Freer Sackler Galleries

I found an earlier woodblock print of a dog and it is by Hishikawa Moronobu (菱川師宣: d. 1694). (I added the green background.)

Of course, I know that there were earlier painting which included dogs. For example, there is painting by Sotatsu (宗達: fl. 1600-1630s) in the Freer Sackler collection in D. C. Below is a detail showing all of the painted surface.

   © The Smithsonian – Freer Sackler Galleries

The spotted puppy is a particularly endearing image. In 1802, another Year of the Dog, one artist created an egoyomi (絵暦) or calendar print showing two spotted puppies. But look carefully, those spots are actually Japanese characters representing the different months.

Another hidden message – In 1778 Koryusai produced a print of seven puppies grouped near a narcissus plant. Since 1778 was another Year of the Dog the print makes perfect sense. However, what most people wouldn’t realize that it was also the seventh year of the An’ei era (1772-81) and hence the seven pups. They are huddled together to fight off the cold.

   © The Smithsonian – Freer Sackler Galleries

Kiyonaga and Koryusai dogs after Harunobu – This first image below is of two girls with a dog by Koryusai. Is that a ball or a biscuit drawing the dog’s attention? Probably a ball? That’s my guess. Yours might be different.

Another Koryusai shows a courtesan with her assistant and a rather hefty looking pekingese. In ca. 1781 Kiyonaga produced an image of a woman leaving her bath with a dog watching her. This is a motif which was reproduced in one variation or another by later artists right up into the 20th century.


Sleeve dogs – It has been said that the pekingese was a favorite among 18th century prostitutes. In a book by James Dyer Ball called Things Chinese from 1904 there is a particularly apt quote: “They are docile, playful, and affectionate, and of unusual intelligence. Their long silky coats, delicate and finely formed paws, large, lustrous eyes, massive heads, and long, feathery tails, proudly curled over their backs, make them beautiful pets. . . . Smallness is an important point, as they are carried in the large sleeves of Japanese ladies and called ‘sleeve dogs.'” This is an expression, I must admit, I had not heard until now. And, in case you were wondering, the French for sleeve dog is le sleeve-dog, or chien de la Cour. This breed is sometimes known as a Japanese spaniel or Japanese chin.

There is a short story, Kerfol, by Edith Wharton (イーディス・ウォートン: 1862-1937) of a woman who is visiting Brittany for the first time. A friend suggests that she look at a run-down property which he says she could pick up cheaply. He drops her off at a juncture in a road and tells her how to find the place. The description makes it seem like the House of Usher was located in Brigadoon. There is  a sense of the unreal, of other-worldliness. When she arrives she is greeted by a guard dog in the courtyard. “…a little dog [which] barred my way. He was such a remarkably beautiful little dog that for a moment he made me forget the splendid place he was defending. I was not sure of his breed at the time, but have since learned that it was Chinese, and that he was of a rare variety called the “Sleeve-dog.” He was very small and golden brown, with large brown eyes and a ruffled throat: he looked rather like a large tawny chrysanthemum. I said to myself: ‘These little beasts always snap and scream, and somebody will be out in a minute.’ ¶ The little animal stood before me, forbidding, almost menacing: there was anger in his large brown eyes. But he made no sound, he came no nearer. Instead, as I advanced, he gradually fell back…” The sleeve-dog was joined by other dogs which also remained silent while an intense white pointer with one brown ear looked down at them from a window. To learn the rest read the story. The sleeve dog plays an important role.

The next quote is from the 1905 edition of With the Empress Dowager by Katherine Augusta Carl. While it deals with China and not Japan still I feel that it is worth citing. “The dogs at the Palace are kept in a beautiful pavilion with marble floors. They have silken cushions to sleep on, and special eunuchs to attend them. They are taken for daily outdoor exercise and given their baths with regularity. There are hundreds of dogs in the Palace, the young Empress, the Princesses and Ladies, and even the eunuchs, having their own. Some of the eunuchs are great fanciers and breeders of them. One of them still breeds the sleeve-dog. Her Majesty’s known dislike to these latter is probably the cause of fewer being bred in the palace now than formerly, and the race is slowly dying out.”

Below is a detail from a print by Koryusai (湖龍斎: active 1760-83) on the left and a Japanese chin on the right. It was originally posted at Flickr by Alex Archambault.


And just for good measure I have decided to add an image I found at commons.wikipedia originally posted elsewhere by Exceptionalrule. Again this 6 month old pup brings out the awwwwww factor in many of us. Not all of us, but enough not to be embarrassed by our own reactions.

Perhaps my favorite sleeve dog image in print form is from a series of beauties – the women, not the dogs – by Chikanobu. The example below comes from the collection of the National Diet Library.

NDL_Chikanobu_sleeve_dog_7b   National Diet Library

After Wharton’s adored pet, Nicette, a papillon, died she kept only pekingese. There is an odd picture of Wharton with two small dogs balanced not in her sleeves, but on her shoulders. It was posted at Flickr by 50 Watts.

Say what? There is a book by Maureen Adams, Shaggy Muses…, in which Wharton’s love of dogs is discussed. However, Adams makes one, at least one, I haven’t found any others, mistake when she says: “…the Pekingese was unknown outside China until the Opium War, when British soldiers invaded the Imperial Palace in Peking and discovered the body of  a princess who had committed suicide rather than fall into enemy hands. Guarding her body were five exotic dogs that looked like small lions. Several officers took the dogs back to England, and in 1861, they presented the most beautiful beautiful of the five to Queen Victoria. This little Peke, appropriately named Looty, so pleased the queen that she had Looty’s portrait painted by Sir Edwin Landseer, the preeminent Victorian painter.”

Supposedly the Queen named the dog Looty because it came from the Summer Palace and was made a gift to her by the 99th Regiment. Below is a photograph of the dog taken by William Bambridge and still in the Royal Collection.

  © 2011 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

She was wrong! When Maureen Adams said: “…the Pekingese was unknown outside China until the Opium War…” she was wrong. When I read that I thought about the fact that these dogs were fashionable pets among courtesans in Japan in, at least, the late 18th century. To be fair, how would Ms. Adams have known that. So, perhaps I was being a bit niggling on this one. And then I read what Margaret Truman, Harry’s daughter, had to say about it in The President’s House: 1800 to the Present The Secrets and History of the World’s Most Famous Home:

Photo of Margaret Truman posted at commons.wikimedia by Scewing

“In 1855, Commodore Matthew C. Perry returned from his historic voyage to Japan, a trip that opened that country to trade with the West. Perry brought back several crates full of gifts for President Franklin Pierce, including Japanese silks, porcelains, and fans. The gift that appealed to the president most was a collection of seven tiny canines that were known in Asia as ‘sleeve dogs’.” (The two images shown below were posted at commons.wikimedia by Gwillhickers for the stamp and Maksim for the picture of Franklin Pierce. Do you think Pierce is posed like that in a Napoleonic-hand-in-coat position because he is petting his new pekingese? Probably not, but just wait until you see the next reference from this book.)


Jeff Davis and shades of Elle Woods and Paris Hilton – Truman continued: “Pierce kept one of the dogs at the White House. The others were given to friends, including Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who was so delighted with the creature that he carried him around in his pocket.” (This image of Jeff Davis was posted at commons.wikimedia by Materialscientist. The 1887 photo of Queen Victoria was placed at the same location by Phrood. I put them side by side because, according to Margaret Truman, Pres. Pierce and several of his friends, including Davis, owned sleeve dogs before the Queen did.)


There is much more to be admired and enjoyed in Maureen Adams’ book than to be criticized: For example, in her first section on Elizabeth Barrett Browning (エリザベス・バレット・ブラウニング: 1806–1861) she writes about this author’s overwhelming grief following the death of one of her brothers. She had had a lot of reasons to be sad and mournful prior to this, but Bro’s death could have been her final straw. That is, until her friend Mary Mitford sent her a cocker spaniel puppy to cheer her up. It worked. Not immediately, but soon enough. Ms. Barrett was drawn out of her depression by this irrepressible pet called Flush. Adams reports that Flush “…invented a favorite game that he insisted on repeating over and over. As Elizabeth reclined on her sofa, Flush would climb from the armrest to the top of her head and perch there ‘with his silky ears flapping about mine’ for several minutes. Then with no warning he would tumble down over her shoulders ‘like an avalanche.’ Although Elizabeth considered the game ‘eccentric and perverse’ and worried that Flush might break her bones, she tolerated it because he enjoyed it so much.” The mental picture one gets of this game rivals or trumps the shoulder-sitting picture shown above of Edith Wharton and her overly indulged dogs.

Browning wrote a toucing poem, To Flush, My Dog. Virginia Woolf (ヴァージニア・ウルフ: 1882-1941) wrote a biography of Flush (フラッシュ). Woolf is an interesting case. ” ‘Flush‘, wrote Quentin Bell in the biography of his aunt [Virginia Woolf], ‘is not so much a book by a dog lover as a book by someone who would love to be a dog.” Woolf and her family shared a trait: They liked to compare one another and others to animals or creatures. Woolf, who in one of her fits of madness swore that she heard the birds singing in Greek, once referred to Aldous Huxley as a ‘gigantic grasshopper.’ As a point of interest Huxley (オールダス・ハックスリー: 1894-1963) was 6′ 4 1/2″ tall.  I think that says it all. Below is a photo of Huxley, his wife and son. Also, just for comparison’s sake I am posting a detail of a photo of a ‘gigantic grasshopper’ below. It was taken by edi wibowo and posted at commons.wikimedia.

   © National Portrait Gallery, London  

Paranoia, the destroyer – Before I leave Margaret Truman and her book I thought I should give you a quote which reminds me of a Kinks song. Let me set the stage: Kennedy met Khrushchev in Vienna, Later Khrushchev sent Jacqueline Kennedy some gifts including a mongrel dog named Puschinka as a gift for Caroline. “…the Secret Service was understandably suspicious of Pushinka. For all anyone knew, she might have an electronic bug implanted in her tail. Before the dog could be admitted to the White House, she had to undergo a security check. Fortunately, she turned out to be clean.”

It may not be a sleeve dog, but… The fashion for owning small dogs was clearly popular in the late 18th to early 19th century in Japan – much as it is today in the West. Below is a painting by Shungyō (春暁) in the collection of the British Museum. It appears to date from 1789-95. The dog does not appear to be a pekingnese because its tail does not curl back on itself.

   © The Trustees of the British Museum

There is a Chinese plate in the British Museum dating from ca. 1735-45. The museum describes its decoration as being in the European style. There is a pekingese in the center with various birds along the edge with and overall diaper pattern. But it is the dog which I found most striking. Was this plate exported to Europe in the early 18th century? If so, it must have seemed quite an exotic oddity.

   © The Trustees of the British Museum

A gruesome, gory ghost story, but what is it? There is a Kuniyoshi print of Okada Magodayu Toyonari (岡田孫太夫豊成) slaying a dog possessed by the spirit of a monk. Supposedly Toyonari is one of the 47 loyal retainers of the Chushingura, but even here… In any case, I don’t have the slightest what the story of this print is. It seems to me the dog gets the worst of it and the spirit is basically unfazsed. If anyone out there who doesn’t contribute to or swear by Wikipedia knows the true story please contact me. Thanks.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

So many unanswered questions, so many bizarre images – Kuniyoshi was known for his warrior prints. Here is #23 of one of his Chushingura series showing Katsude Shinemon Taketata holding a lantern over a dog which looks like it just came out of a clown car at the circus. Even the dog looks like an afterthought and seems created in a different style – a painterly, freer, less hard-edged style – and even as though it was created by a different hand. Perhaps the text explains what’s happening here, but it is way beyond my abilities to read it. All I can do is show it to you. When or if they answer is ever made clear I will share it.

© The British Museum 

There is an English painting from ca. 1790 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art attributed to George Morland (ジョージ・モーランド: 1763-1804) showing performing dogs dancing before a mother and child and two boys. (Below is a close up of 3 of the dogs.)

And then there is the dog’s ruffled collar – How long have humans been dressing up their dogs. Well, let’s see, dogs were domesticated some [fill in the blank] years ago and at some point someone’s cave outfit fell on a poor mutt and the whole group laughed. “Boy, that gives me an idea, they must have thought.” And in time someone must have thought there was money to be made in designing clothes for pets and voila! Not to mention all of the home spun fashions. The proof of this hypothesis is everywhere. Just look at these examples. The one on the left was posted at commons.wikimedia by Plepl and the one on the right by amandarydell.


Inu hariko 張子Papier mâché dogs: Frédéric says these are talismans used to protect “…the birth and health of children, used mainly during the Edo period. It originated with another, quite similar talisman, Inubako (dog-box). It was customary to write the kanji character for dog (inu) on the forehead of children to keep them from falling ill. Today it is a toy, sometimes displayed during the festival for little girls…”

  This is from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.

Detail from a Buncho (文調: fl. 1765-92) print.

Below is a Kuniyoshi print from ca. 1850-52. It shows Inue Shinbei Masashi 犬江親兵衛仁 from the History of the Eight Dogs of Satomi. On his robes are inu hariko.

   © The Trustees of the British Museum

A little history of a select few East Asian dogs – According to Sandra and Harry Choron “The Shiba Inu can be traced back to Japan’s Joumon period (10,000 to 300 B.C.). She is the oldest Japanese breed and is also the smallest of the Japanese spitz breeds. The Shiba Inu we see today is the product of crossing the Shinshu Shiba, Mino Shiba, and Sanin Shiba, all from different regions of Japan.”

Of the Pekingese the Chorons say “…dates back 4000 years. She was the imperial dog of China and was believed to ward off evil spirits. Chinese commoners had to bow to this toy dog, and Chinese emperors were buried with them with the hope that they would serve as protection in the afterlife. The theft of one of these dogs was punishable by death.”

Julien Fielding in his Discovering World Religions at 24 Frames Per Second states that in December 1936 the Shiba inu was “…designated a ‘precious natural product of the Japanese nation.’ ” Another credible source says it is 1937. Yet a third date, 1932, appears in Laura Payton’s book devoted to this dog. The truth lies in there somewhere – that is, if there is any such thing as the Truth. I suspect in this case there is, but as yet I haven’t the slightest how to figure it out.

Payton credits the efforts to preserve this and other breeds to  Saito Hirokichi starting in 1928. According to Payton there are 6 breeds of dogs in Japan. However, the Shiba is the only one not named after a geographical location.

The Howell Book of Dogs by Liz Palika says that World War II almost brought the Shiba inu to extinction, but that it was saved by a concerted effort after the war ended. The author doesn’t say why or how it came so close to extinction.

Brett Walker in The Lost Wolves of Japan says that “Prior to the early twentieth century, the categories of canine remained diverse and dependent on social situations and ecological contexts; wolves (ōkami), sick wolves (byōrō), mountain dogs (yamainu), honorable dogs (oinu), big dogs (ōinu), wild dogs (yaken), bad dogs (akuken), village dogs (sato inu), domesticated dogs (kai inu), and hunting dogs all loped across the boundaries of status and of occupational, religious, and regional understandings of the categories of canine.” All of this began to change with the increased use of the Linnaean system in the early 20th c. This was at least eight decades after the methods of Linnaeus had been introduced for botanical and other zoological taxonomies.

A man and his dog – In Ueno Park in Tokyo is a famous statue of Saigo Takamori (1827-77). He helped lead the revolt which overthrew the Tokugawa shogunate. In the Kodansha Encyclopedia entry it says that this statue “…shows him as a man of the people, dressed casually and with his favorite dog at his side.” That’s all I know about it so far, but if I find out more about the dog I will update this entry. Below are two images. The first is a photo of the statue posted at commons.wikimedia by Arabatibabateke. The second one is a garish print by Kunitoshi (1847-99) and now in the Smithsonian collection.

    © The Smithsonian – Freer Sackler Galleries

A few more oddities – In the 1871 publication of Once a Week, volume 25, there is an article called ‘A Few Words on Dogs and Their Diet’. The author says that huskies eat fish and like it because that is what their masters feed them. Dogs in the wine regions eat grapes. “In many vine-growing countries, the dogs seem unable to resist an apparently unnatural taste for grapes; and they do so much damage to vineyards, that in Bordeaux the gardes champetres are authorized to kill every canine vagrant found amidst the vines, unless he is duly muzzled; and miniature gallows may be seen in all directions, with the unhappy victims suspended by the neck.” So much for grape eating mutts. The author goes on to tell us that many dogs like strawberries because they are sweet. “Dogs that do not delight in sugar and confectionery are comparatively rare.”

In time the author describes the so-called sleeve dog: “The sleeve- dog — apparently the name by which it is known in China — is a degenerated, long- legged variety of pug, rigidly kept on low diet, and never allowed to run about on the ground ; they are kept very much on the top of a ‘kang’ or stove bed-place, and not allowed to run about on the ground, as it is supposed that if they run on the ground they will derive strength from the ground and be able to grow large. Their food is much restricted, and consists chiefly of boiled rice.” How East Asian of them! But wait… it gets even better. The article goes on to mentioned that the most prized of these dogs in Japan are the smaller ones who have had their growth stunted by saké. Oh… and yes, they have a particular dislike of foreigners. Saké will do that sometimes.

Tickling her fancy… – Anyone who has looked at my posts previously knows that I don’t stay within narrow bounds. There are far to many similarities between what happens in one culture and another, in one age and another, in one household and another. Rarely do I try to draw a direct connection because rarely do I think there is one. Generally, I think it is only a matter of human nature repeating itself. That is why I think I would be totally remiss if I didn’t show you one of my favorite images dealing with dogs. It is by Fragonard (フラゴナール: 1732-1806), one of my favorite artists on so many levels. It shows a young woman and her long-tailed dog frolicking in her boudoir. It has nothing to do with the Zodiac, it has nothing to do with Japan or woodblock prints, but… It has everything to do with the core of human nature and Art – with a capital A.

I found the painting at commons.wikipedia posted by Anagoria. The original is in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. Note that it was painted around the same time Harunobu was creating his brilliant woodblock prints.

You are not going to believe me, but I don’t like Fragonard for any lascivious reasons – although that would be hard to tell judging from the appearance of the painting shown above. I like – NO! make that LOVE Fragonard because he was one of the greatest and most facile painters who ever lived. He ranks right up there with Rembrandt, Titian, Goya, Velazquez, Vermeer and Hals in my book. (I didn’t name all of my favorites, but you should get the idea.) However, now that I have tried to make that clear – you need to understand that I could stand in front of a portrait by him for an eternity and never notice the time or others going by – and now that I have tried to make that clear, I will lead you into the next dog-related images which I must say are definitely of a crude, rude and prurient nature.

One more point: When Fragonard was once asked how he was able to paint such beautiful women I think he used a rather crude French expression that translates loosely as  “I paint them with my sex.”  The literal translation is a lot cruder, but that is the gist. Renoir said basically the same thing 100 years later. I’m not sure, but I think it was Diderot, the encyclopedist, who once said that Fragonard’s painted the most exquisite whores in France – or some such thing.

There is a tamer and far more Japanese counterpart to the Fragonard painting shown above. It is by Toraji Ishikawa (石川寅治: 1875-1964) and was considered scandalous in its day. Toraji struck every nerve of conservative/militaristic/reactionary Japan when he came out with a series of large female nudes engaged in everyday activities – activities that many women went through only these women were naked. Without sounding lecherous, I love these prints and was lucky enough over the years to have owned and sold quite a few of them. Most recently I sold a keyblock print for “Sound of a Bell” from 1934. Now that I look back at it I notice that it features a sleeve dog, a pekingese and I see it now so differently because of this post. Below is an image of the finished print. It may not be Fragonard, but it is damned close – in my book.

Doing it doggie-style in Japan – Anyone who knows anything about Japanese woodblock prints knows about their huge production, mainly anonymous, of shunga (春画). Shunga can be translated as porn, porno, pornography, erotica or more literally as ‘spring picture’. While most of the time it was banned that didn’t seem to be a deterrent to its production and distribution. Avidly collected by Westerners – at least in the last 60 years, it is here and it is never going away. While often it was produced by competent artists its main purpose was not artistic. It was mainly lewd and served the same purpose Playboy magazines served for teenage boys of the 1950s and 60s. The difference is that Japanese shunga left far less to the imagination.

These erotic prints shared certain things in commons: 1) Women almost always – close to 100% of the time – played the subordinate role and 2) the male genitalia was often exaggerated in an almost cartoonish fashion. (First viewers of Japanese shunga often gasp. After that many snicker while others express disgust.) One thing they rarely did was display acts of bestiality, but this is my section on dogs in Japan and there are a couple examples which show male dogs in the act with human women. Rare, but not unheard of. (I wish I had a thousand dollars for every guy I have ever talked to who has claimed he saw the donkey act in Tijuana.) That said, now for the ADULT WARNING! DON’T CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW IF YOU ARE UNDERAGED OR EASILY OFFENDED MORALLY! I didn’t create these images. I am merely the messenger.

Just so you know that my mind is not always in the gutter, there is another painting of a dog which is among my all-time favorites. It is by Giacomo Balla (ジャコモ・バッラ: 1871-1953) and hangs in the Albright Knox Museum in Buffalo, New York. Entitled “Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash” (鎖に繋がれた犬のダイナミズム) from 1912 shows a woman walking her dachshund (ダックスフンド). Of course, to be fair, the dog is probably near the gutter. So, I guess you could say that my mind is closer to the gutter than not when it comes to this masterpiece. You be the judge.

Balla was a member of the Futurists who tried to portray movement in their art. I think he succeeded terrifically. There is wit and humor here. The dog has at least eight tails and innumerable legs. I wish we could know what Einstein would have made of this painting relative to his theories of time and space.

  © The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy

Taking a dump – One of the world’s truly great images of a dog doing what a dog does is from a Rembrandt etching from 1633. The subject of the print is The Good Samaritan. In the lower right, adding to the realism of the scene is a defecating dog. Kenneth Clark in his Rembrandt and the Italian Renaissance wrote: “Another symbol, even more repulsive occurs in his etching of the Good Samaritan… dated in eh fourth state 1633. It is Rembrandt’s dogmatic sermon against the frivolity of elegance. The forms are not simply ungraceful; they are reduced to clouts and clods. The figures hang from one another like a string of potatoes, and their sequence of lumpish shapes comes most sharply into focus with the dog, who is there to remind us that if we are to practise the Christian virtues of charity and humility, we must extend our sympathy to all natural functions, even those which disgust us. It is interesting that almost the only person to recognise the meaning of this etching was Goethe,  in his essay Rembrandt als Denker.  As a matter of fact, the dog seems to be an after-thought, for it does not appear in the small oil painting in the Wallace Collection, which I believe to be an authentic modello for the etching; and scholars jealous for Rembrandt’s good name have tried to maintain that it was added by a pupil.”

      © The Trustees of the British Museum

An annus horribilus (as the Queen would say) – Back in 1994 I was having a terrible year. People and pets around me were either dying or in near-death conditions – from the youngest to the oldest. Then I got it, meningitis, and I too thought I was going to die. All of this happened around the time I was planning a great party for the 10th anniversary of my art gallery in Kansas City. To celebrate it I gave out 4′ lengths of the best black velvet I could find to about 18 different artists who I trusted to come up with something spectacular. I made it clear that although I had paid for the velvet and was paying for a spectacular party they would be the sole owners of their own, individual pieces. They came through spectacularly.

The first painting – some were sculptures – arrived as I was just beginning to recover from the meningitis. The doorbell rang and it took me at least 5 minutes to get to the door – something which normally would take me a few seconds. It was Nora Othic and her contribution to the show. I was too bent over and immersed in pain to see what it looked like. Five minutes later I had made it back to my couch. We talked for a few minutes and then I asked her to turn the painting toward me so I could see it and see it I did. Now first I have to tell you that under normal conditions I have a laugh which can clear a room. She turned the painting toward me and despite the pain I started laughing so hard that I made her turn it toward the wall again. In fact, I told her she had to or else she was going to kill me then and there. Below a large detail of Nora’s piece entitled The Toilet of Queenie. Queenie, who has since died was one of her pets at that time.

Notice the little flying puppies in the upper right just where little flying putti would be. Clever, eh?

I told Nora that I already knew the painting and within minutes – or probably what seemed like hours – I showed her the cover of a museum catalogue devoted to an exhibition of the paintings of Johann Liss who died in 1631 somewhere in his early 30s. Below is a part of that cover representing his Toilet of Venus.

The Black Velvet Show was such a success that the Kansas City Star ran a couple of articles about it. One appeared on a Sunday, the most vaunted of arts coverage almost exclusively reserved for institutional stuff at that time, and there was a color reproduction of Nora’s painting on the front page of that section. Nora said that ever since Queenie appeared in color in the Star she was impossible to deal with.

Speaking of velvet… or… you’re in the dog house now!

One of my completely favorite objects in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a specialized niche de chien or dog house made for one of Marie Antoinette’s pets. It can be found in the Wrightsman galleries. The museum says: “The Wrightsman’s example is constructed from gilded beech and pine and covered with luxurious velvet. The interior is lined in a striped blue and beige silk. The usage of acanthus leaves and Greek keys throughout comprise popular Neoclassical motifs fashionable in France at the end of the eighteenth century. Marie-Antoinette, like Madame de Pompadour before her, was a lover of canines. Her pets seemed to return the affection: tradition has it that her beloved dog Coco followed her mistress to her imprisonment at the Temple during the French Revolution.” Designed by one of the great furniture makers of that period, Claude I Sené (French, 1724–1792), it dates from ca. 1775-80. My guess: it was made no later than July 14, 1789, but who is to quibble?

Niche de chien
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Saving the best for last – Well, it’s not necessarily ‘the best’, but it is a winner. This gold and silver dog pennant now in the Louvre was created in Susa in ca. 3,300 to 3,000 B.C. It is a metallurgical marvel. Only 1.4 cm high it combines many different techniques. The body of the figure was cast using the lost-wax method. While the metal was still hot the ears and tail were pulled outward and extra material was used to get the tail to bring it back over the animal’s back. The loop was soldered with copper and gold – the first time this was known to have been done. It may not be Japanese, but it sure is spectacular.

   © R.M.N./Les frères Chuzeville – the Louvre

I guess I am not quite finished yet. While this may not have anything to do with Japan, the Japanese and their dogs this next part does deal with a particular fascination of mine – words and their origins. If only I could talk to you about Japanese etymologies, but alas… I can’t. However, I can pass along a few thoughts about words in English – and occasionally in a few other European languages, but not well. Let’s take a look at the word ‘dog’. Where in the hell did this word come from? It first showed up in Old English as docga in about the 11th century, but didn’t spread into more generalized usage until two centuries later. And it wasn’t until the 16th century that it began to overtake the word ‘hound’. Not only that but “It has no known relatives of equal antiquity in other European languages…” However, in the 16th and 17th centuries it did begin to spread into other European languages, but like so many other words it morphed somewhat: In German a deutsche dogge is a great dane, an englische dogge is a mastiff; in French dogue is a mastiff and in Swedish dogg is ‘bulldog’.

Joseph T. Shipley in The Origins of English Words notes that “In the Bible the dog is mentioned 18 times, the cat not once.”

Please remember no post is ever finished. I know it is a lot to ask you to look at something you have read before again, but you can never tell when I am going to add something new. Not even I am able to anticipate that. So be patient with me and try to learn to endure. I am doing the best I can. Thanks!

For more information about Japanese prints and culture please visit our other web site at

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