Japan’s Best Friend is a visual celebration of the country’s top dogs

Whether it’s robot pups, legendary akitas or foamy latte pooches, Japan really loves its dogs. A new book from Prestel celebrates the many ways designers, photographers and illustrators have paid tribute to the special relationship

Egle Zvirblyte, Tokyo Nunchuk Dog, Image © Egle Zvirblyte.
Tokyo Nunchuk Dog by Egle Zvirblyte

If you’ve been to Tokyo, you’ll have seen the many well-dressed dogs that inhabit the city – decked out in top-to-toe outfits, and usually with a sharp haircut to boot. Japan’s Best Friend, by Manami Okazaki, shines a spotlight on these pampered pooches, through a collection of photographs and illustrations exploring their place in Japan’s daily life and folklore.

As well as honoured guests at festivals and inspiration for ukiyo-e woodblock prints, dogs have inspired the creative world. Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban is featured in the book, with his architectural pavilion-turned-kennel created for the ongoing Architecture For Dogs project.

Papier Papillon by Shigeru Ban. Image © Hiroshi Yoda
Papier Papillon by Shigeru Ban, © Hiroshi Yoda
Dog-themed manga by Kyuta Ishikawa. Image © Kyoto International Manga Museum Collection
Dog-themed manga by Kyuta Ishikawa, © Kyoto International Manga Museum Collection
Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Lady of the Evening Face: Yazama’s Wife Orie, from the series Scenes Amid Genji Clouds Matched with Ukiyo-e Pictures, 1845–46. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Lady of the Evening Face: Yazama’s Wife Orie, © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Aibo ERS-1000 designed by Noriaka Takagi
Aibo ERS-1000, designed by Noriaka Takagi, © Sony

There’s also work by illustrator Yusuke Hanai – who’s exhibited around the world – who used his pet chihuahua as impetus for various anthropomorphic characters, and Lithuanian artist Egle Zvirblyte, who was inspired to create her Tokyo Dogs series after visiting the capital. And of course there’s always Sony’s iconic Aibo robot dog, launched in 1999 but now sadly discontinued.

Bookending all the creative work is plenty of photography, taken at dog-themed festivals, showing carefully crafted wooden figurines, and documenting canine statues commemorating the best boys and girls.

A figurine on the Sasuke Inari Shrine. Image © Manami Okazaki.
A figurine on the Sasuke Inari Shrine, © Manami Okazaki
Dog in a kimono. © Manami Okazaki.
Dogs in kimonos, ©s Manami Okazaki
Cover of Japan's Best Friend book

Japan’s Best Friend walks a fine balance between pop culture and tradition, but even if you’re more of a cat person, there’s still plenty to feast the eyes on here.

Japan’s Best Friend is published by Prestel; penguinrandomhouse.com