Yesterday was an uncharacteristically rainy day in Tokyo so off we went with our resident toddler to spend the day in a shopping mall that would take us in the car from the basement parking of my house to the basement parking of the shopping center.
As with all upscale shopping malls in Tokyo these days, a significant portion of retail space is devoted to pets and their accessories and services. It's all part of the overall trend in Japan towards more pets and less kids.
Rent-a-dog for a morning
When I reached the shopping mall, the first store I espied was a pet store, of course, and a rather fancy one. There was a big sign offering dogs for rent for 1000 yen for 30 minutes or 2000 yen for 60 minutes. You got a choice of a dog, a little care bag filled with doggie treats and the de riguer plastic bag and scoop shovel in case your darling dog poops while out with you.
What the heck? I thought. So I placed 1000 yen on the counter and went through the motions of acquiring a pet for half an hour. Trust is a big thing in Japan, as this is a Big Brother state that won't really allow you to get very far, so all I needed to rent a dog was my driver's license. They didn't even take this from me, they just photocopied it, and then I was ready.
Unfortunately, as it was first thing in the morning, there were only two dogs available -- I guess the others were still asleep? It was either a male dacshund or a female dacshund, and I happened to like to golden color of the male one so I chose him.
My new pet was a very lively dog who kept jumping around.
"You can put him in a pet stroller, if you want," suggested the man at the store. "We lend pet strollers out to those who've rented a pet from us."
So I tried his suggestion and placed the dog in one of the strollers. But as the dog was quite lively, I was asked to place a net over him and zip him up in the stroller. The end result was not a dog out for a walk anymore but a heavy stroller with something moving around inside. I couldn't even see the dog inside as the net was quite thick and heavy. Of course, I immediately saw there was no point in renting a dog if all I would be doing was pushing a heavy stroller around. So I took the dog out again and spent about ten minutes being pulled by it in all directions around the ground floor of the shopping mall.
A great-looking deli -- or not?
It was on one of our hurried forays that we stumbled on a very attractive deli counter selling delicious-looking sandwiches, beautiful cupcakes and cakes, and all kinds of treats. The prices were on the expensive side, but I figured it was catering to upscale consumers who are willing to pay up for quality. It was only when I took a closer look at one of the open-faced sandwiches that I realized that the toppings were raw!
It was a pet delicatessen!
If I told you this story without any photos, I'm sure you would think I was joking -- or at least exaggerating. How can anyone mistake pet food for upscale deli food, after all? Well, here are the photos to prove it. It's certainly a dog's (and cat's) life in Tokyo....
The menu at the pet deli -- quite extensive as far as we're concerned!
Luscious cupcakes -- unfortunately not for human but for canines
Doggy doughnuts, anyone?
Travelife Magazine's October-November 2010 issue
is on sale everywhere now.