The history of some of the dog breeds in Japan goes back to the imperial court of ancient times and many of its unique and beautiful breeds are some of the most coveted today. Known for their loyalty, intelligence and strength, these mainly working dogs were most often bred for hunting elk, bear and wild boar in the mountains of Japan.
Perhaps the most well known canine character in modern Japanese dog lore is Hachiko, a Japanese Akita whose statue can be found in front of busy Shibuya train station and is a famous landmark where people often make plans to meet. As seen in the movie “Hachi”, starring Richard Gere, Hachiko was a real dog who waited for his owner to return from his commute each day in front of the station. When the owner died Hachiko continued to wait for him every day at the same place for nine years until the dog’s own passing. The symbol of loyalty, Hachiko represents the best in many of Japan’s now often rare and highly sought after Spitz breeds. Sadly, during WWII many of these beautiful animals were killed for their warm coats but have since survived near extinction. Akitas were popular and beloved among American soldiers and after the war some of the larger of the dogs were brought back to the US. As a result there is now an American Akita breed that is noticeably larger than its Japanese predecessor who stands to 20 inches tall and weighs between 44 and 66 pounds. The Akita is a fearless and astute hunter, highly intelligent and agile. The dog can be found in the colors white, red, black, brindle and wolf gray.
Among the Japanese breeds one of the most well known is the Shiba Inu, “inu” meaning dog in Japanese. With a fox-like appearance they look similar to the Japanese Akita but are generally smaller with females weighing up to 18 pounds and males up to 23 pounds. They stand as tall as 17 inches and can be found in red, sesame, black and tan and white. The Shiba Inu is intensely loyal and somewhat aloof especially with strangers. The breed is known for its scream. When happy or excited and when unhappy or provoked the dog lets out a high pitched scream that is unmistakable. The Shiba Inu is high spirited and as many of the other Japanese dogs was bred for hunting.
One of the only Japanese dogs bred for companionship as well as protection is the Japanese Spitz, a small dog similar to but larger than its cousin the Pomeranian. Standing normally between 13 and 16 inches the Spitz is fiercely protective of its owners and is an excellent watchdog know for its bark that works just as well as any threatened bite. It has a thick long coat and is both intelligent and playful. Good with children, the Spitz makes a great family dog. Originally bred from the German Spitz and white Canadian Spitz’s the breed was introduced to Japan around 1920.
Some Japanese dog breeds have been banned in other countries and in some US states as they are fiercely protective, athletic and strong with a keen prey instinct. These dogs must be properly socialized both early on and continuously throughout their lives.
One breed in particular, the Tosa Inu, is widely banned. The Tosa Inu, or Japanese Mastiff, was bred for dog fighting, which has a long history in Japan. It is the largest of the Japanese breeds and can weigh between 100 and 200 pounds. With its owners it is patient, loyal and noted for its calm nature. It does not have the high energy level of some of the other Japanese breeds. As a fighting dog, however, it is fearless. The dog is treated with respect in Japan and is mainly used for companionship and as a guard dog. It was originally bred from the German Mastiff, the Bulldog, the German Pointer and the Great Dane.
Some of the most popular Japanese dog names for male and female dogs include names derived from English and even French words adopted into Japanese in addition to traditional Japanese names that are both unique and beautiful.
In recent decades we also see dog names taken from anime (Japanese animation) characters that are also hugely popular in many countries as Japanese anime shows have now become available overseas on various streaming channels. Chances are that if you have children in the house they know these anime characters and might be excited to consider one of their names for a new dog.
When picking a Japanese name for your furry family member make sure to pick one that everyone can easily say so that the dog does not get confused by different variations of its name.
Popular Japanese Male Dog Names:
Kotaro – a traditional old name meaning small boy
Koro – a cute name meaning roly poly suited to a plump little dog
Jiro – another traditional old name meaning the second son appropriate for a second dog in the house
Choco – derived from the English word choco-late and most often used of course for brown colored dogs
Lucky – this name borrowed from the English and luck and wishing for luck are common themes in Japan as well as much of Asia
Aki – meaning Autumn and well suited to a red colored dog
Akira – meaning bright and luminous
Taro – another old and traditional name meaning the large son suitable for larger dogs
Yoshi – a popular name meaning again lucky
Yuki – meaning snow and definitely suited to an all white dog
Yuji – meaning heroic second son and certainly appropriate for a boy’s companion
Japanese Names for Female Dogs:
Momo – meaning peach in Japanese
Sakura – the word for cherry blossom in Japanese, suited for a white or partly white dog and a very beautiful name and flower famous in Japan
Maron – the French word for chestnut adopted into Japanese
Hana – an old and traditional name meaning flower in Japanese
Mocha – borrowed from the English the chocolate coffee flavor we all know and love
Yuka – meaning gentle flower in Japanese
Eri – a beautiful girls name meaning blessed pride in Japanese
Hoshi – the Japanese word for star
Chika – an easy to say name for English speakers meaning scattered flowers in Japanese
Sora – the word for “sky”
Suzu – meaning bell and appropriate for a little dog with a high pitched bark
Dog Names from Anime Characters
Akamaru – the character Kiba’s dog from the anime Naruto
Bee – from the popular anime Dragon Ball Z
Ask your children for other anime dog names and they may be very excited to tell you!
When pronouncing Japanese names it is important to note that u is pronounced like the u in tune or “you”. The i is pronounced like in pine or “eye” . The a is pronounced like in far or “ah”. The e is pronounced “eh” as in pet. And the o is always long or “oh” as in boat.