Dogs Reign Supreme for Childless JapaneseS

This Guardian piece on why Japan prefers pets to parenthood is filled with outrageous examples of the ways people pamper their pets — sunglasses and tiny shoes, bedazzled buggies, organic doggie treats — but, underneath the bling, it's an interesting (and slightly sad) story about the country's plummeting birthrate.

It makes a lot of sense that Japanese people would rather have pets than children; the country isn't only dealing with the same economic crisis as the rest of us, but the aftermath of an earthquake and nuclear disasters as well. Why take the risk? For example, Jiro Akiba and his wife decided to have a dog instead of a baby because his wife didn't want to stop working. "In Japanese society, it's really hard for women to have a baby and keep a job … so my girlfriend decided against having a baby, and that's why we have a dog instead," he told the Guardian, adding that it makes sense given the high cost of living and the poor job market.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with choosing to care for a pet instead of a child. But the people the Guardian interviewed all seem to wish they had kids instead. Akiba and his wife named their dog "first-born son" in Japanese, and one guy dressed his dog up in a white hoodie and jeans so his dog would look "cute, cool and tough" — and attract the ladies. So far, it hasn't worked. "I wish I could meet someone [to share my life with]," he said.

The government is concerned because the average fertility rate is now 1.39 children per woman, which is "well below" the number needed to keep the population stable: if things don't change, Japan's current population of 128 million will fall to 43 million over the next 100 years. It seems doubtful anyone will be inspired to procreate for patriotic reasons, especially when there are puppies to dress up in designer jeans.

Why Japan prefers pets to parenthood [Guardian]

Image via Lobke Peers/Shutterstock.