I may have unearthed a previously unknown form of microaggression: Since I’ve started taking our dog, a Shiba, on walks, I’ve received a few comments of the “good with chopsticks” variety, meant as compliments on my overcoming a presumedly fundamental incompatibility with Japanese dogs. Breeds of dog, like food, music, and literature, are apparently repositories of nationalist sentiment.
I was unaware of this, having grown up in an area where everyone and of course every kind of dog along with every kind of human comes from somewhere else. I used to have pugs, and I never heard anything about how that showed my commendable understanding of the Chinese national character. Things are different here. Japanese dogs (Shiba, Akita, Kishu, Kai, Hokkaido and Shikoku) are viewed as another instance of the unique positive traits of the archipelago made flesh.
It’s rather common in Japan to see news about how Japanese phenomenon X is taihen ninki (“the bee’s knees”) overseas. This could be AKB48’s one show in LA, or Babymetal’s status as youtube meme, or the availability of Cupie mayonnaise. This site does the same for Japanese dogs, and features numerous pictures as proof, along with the movie Hachi, which I always thought was produced for Japan.
Another site does the same, and sets out to explain Japanese dogs’ wonderful qualities by tying them to blood and soil, even invoking the “4 seasons” school of argument.
Speaking of Japanese dogs, which match Japan’s climate with 4 seasons and have had deep-seeded popularity for some time; recently the artlessness and cleverness of Japanese dogs has become very popular in the countries of Europe.
Wikipedia‘s (reliably parochial) entry for Japanese dogs reads:
The qualities artlessness, loyalty, and bravery are held to be characteristic of Japanese dogs, and these special qualities are said to bear great responsibility for their popularity among fans domestic and overseas.
Of course, the breeds included in “Japanese dogs” are all Spitzes, which may have more to do with their common trains than the fact that they all hail from the same modern political entity.
I love my dog. His name is Nico-chan, by the way. I had no idea when we got him that I’d be exposing myself to all new forms of the mythmaking and stereotyping that animates Japan’s 19th-century nationalism.