「Pets in Pandemic Japan」
Barbara Holthus (Deputy Director at the German Institute for Japanese Studies Tokyo)
For almost three years, anti-Covid measures in Japan have encouraged people to engage in physical distancing and “self-restraint”. This has led to spending extended periods of time at home and less time with extended family and friends. In response, pets as “substitute” family members have gained added interest in order to fill the void in human-human interaction. Japanese remain more inclined to “shop” for a new family member at a pet shop than adopt a shelter animal. The increasing number of new pets, however, also led to increased numbers of animals in shelters. The accelerated interest in pets, not since the pandemic but intensified by it, as well as accompanying normative changes regarding pet ownership within Japanese society, are the focus of this presentation. Through interviews with pet owners and shelter organizations, as well as participant observation in pet shops, pet cafes, and at adoption fairs, this presentation tries to highlight the changing role of pets in Japanese society and the particular role of the pandemic.
Barbara Holthus, Ph.D. in Japanese Studies, University of Trier, Germany, 2006, and in Sociology, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2010, is deputy director at the German Institute for Japanese Studies Tokyo. Her research is on marriage and the family, child care, happiness and well-being, volunteering, gender, rural Japan, as well as demographic and social change. She was the principal investigator of a German Science Foundation (DFG) funded research project comparing parental well-being in Germany and Japan (2014-2017). She is the lead editor of Japan through the lens of the Tokyo Olympics (2020; co-editors I. Gagne, W. Manzenreiter, F. Waldenberger).