More than 48 million households in Japan keep pets, according to a 2004 survey by the Japanese pet food manufacturers' association. In 2003, the number of dogs rose by more than 1.5 million to 11.3 million.
The number of dogs being kept as domestic pets in Japan (along with other more exotic animals) began increasing sharply during the economic boom of the "Bubble Years" of the 1980s.
The domestic pet population is experiencing a second spike as the economy picks up again and Japan's population rapidly ages. Nearly a fifth of Japanese - 24 million people - are aged 65 or older; by 2050, they will account for 35% of the population.
More pensioners are turning to pets for companionship as their children leave home and dogs are also cute accessories for the younger generation.
Specialist restaurants for pets have appeared in Tokyo and there is now a 40-room pet hotel at Kansai International Airport - costing up to US$100 a night - for owners to leave their animals while away on holiday.
Hotel Nishiyama and other accommodation in Kyoto