Pampered pooches ride Japan's Shinkansen in style

By Tiffany Wertheimer
BBC News

  • Published
Image source, AFP

Oh to be a pampered pooch on one of Japan's iconic Shinkansen trains heading to a beautiful resort town.

For the first time, 21 furry friends were allowed to roam free in a special pet-friendly carriage on Saturday, as part of a trial by Japan Railways (JR).

Dogs must usually travel in a carrier when riding the high-speed trains which speed all over the country.

However pet ownership is big business in Japan, and demand for easier pet travel is increasing.

The dogs, which included Corgis, Pomeranians and Schnauzers, boarded at Tokyo's Ueno station, and made the hour long journey to the mountainous town of Karuizawa, north west of the capital.

Their owners - sitting on plastic-covered seats - relaxed with their dogs, instead of having to worry that they were distressed or uncomfortable.

"He has to stay in a carrier all the time when travelling, so we check on him regularly," Yoko Okubo, making the journey with her Corgi, told AFP news agency.

"Today we don't need to do that and can see his face. We can travel more comfortably this way."

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Yoko Okubo said she was able to travel without worrying about her Corgi

Pets are big business in Japan.

The industry - which is dominated by dogs and cats - is forecast to reach 1.7 trillion yen ($13.2bn; £10.6bn) in 2022, according to Statistica.

Walking around Tokyo, you can lose count of the many stores dedicated to pet accessories like diamante-encrusted collars and luxury brand dog strollers. In the shop windows fluffy puppies pounce around, with the price tag often in the thousands of dollars.

So for some pet owners, keeping their beloved pooches in a small carrier - which is not allowed to weigh more than 10kg total - seems cruel.

Image source, AFP

"We travel a lot together, but in the past I've felt bad about keeping my dog in a cage," Yukari Seino, travelling with her chihuahua Chobi, told AFP.

"We feel no stress today. Usually travelling on the bullet train is not so fun, and we get bored. But it's really fun today."

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Yukari Seino with her chihuahua, Chobi

Japan Railways launched the trial after customers asked for more relaxed ways to travel with their pets, and the company said it intends to organise more pet-friendly rides in the future.

The Shinkansen bullet trains - top speed 320km/h (198 mph) - are known for their impeccable cleanliness as much as their speed and efficiency.

As well as the plastic covered seats, staff also put air purifiers in the carriage and said it would be cleaned afterwards to remove all traces of dog hair.

Image source, AFP