A dog from Japan with a collar

Japan has a surprising number of dog breeds native to their country. Some of which, like the Shiba Inu, are growing in popularity all over the world. Today, we’re going to cover some of the unique and beautiful dog breeds of Japan.

Akita Inu

This large breed dog hails from the mountains of northern Japan. The Akita Inu is powerful, dominant and independent. It’s loyal to family members and aloof with strangers. Helen Keller was the first overseas recipient of an Akita Inu named Kamikaze-go. That isn’t the only anecdote regarding the fame of the Akita Inu. This breed is cemented in Japanese cultural memory with stories of the faithful dog Hachiko.

Japanese Chin

The Chin is a breed of Japanese aristocracy and still a popular breed today. This small dog weighs less than 10 pounds. The Japanese Chin is also known as the Japanese Spaniel. There are some health issues with this breed that include cataracts, heart murmurs, and luxating patellas.

Japanese Spitz

The Japanese Spitz is a small companion dog. For reference, they are a little larger than Pomeranians. Besides being great companion dogs, the Japanese Spitz is also a careful watchdog. Their fluffy coat is surprisingly easy to maintain, and dirt does not attach to the coat. They have very few health issues except kneecaps they may dislocate. Tear ducts may also be runny.

Japanese Terrier

This interesting pup may be descended from Japanese dogs and fox terrier types of dogs. This dog also goes by the name Nippon Terrier. The Japanese Terrier is known for its white coat and black head. Their small bodies rage from 8 to 13 inches at the shoulder. It’s an energetic dog with a lively temperament.

Kai Ken

The Kai Ken, also known as the Tiger Dog or Tora Inu, is a national monument of Japan. The name Tiger Dog was given due to the breed’s distinguishing striped coat. It’s rare even in its home country and is considered a protected breed. They are medium-sized and known for their intelligence and bravery. They make great watchdogs and hunters.

Ryukyu Inu

Originating in Okinawa, Japan, the Ryukyu Inu is a rare dog these days. There were fewer than 400 of the dogs in 2015. It is not a protected breed like the Kai Ken breed. They were originally bred to track wild boar. After World War II, they were thought to be extinct, but in the 1980s, one man named Yoshio Aragaki, decided to find a purebred Ryukyu.

Sakhalin Husky

This nearly extinct breed was used as a sled dog in both Japan and Russia. Their history is interesting as they were used for the 1958 Japanese expedition to Antarctica. There, 15 of these dogs were left behind. One year later, two of the dogs were miraculously found. Taro and Jiro survived for one year in the harsh climate. Both have been stuffed and are displayed as national treasures at the National Science Museum on Tokyo.

Shiba Inu

This ancient breed is over 3,000 years old! They were bred to hunt for game such as birds and deer. It is a member of the AKC’s non-sporting group. According to the AKC, “The first documented Shiba to enter the United States was imported by a military family in 1954. But the Shiba is an ancient breed, having been around since 300 BC. The breed is named after its history as a hunter in the rugged mountains of Japan.” The name Shiba Inu means “brushwood.” In Japan it’s still the country’s most popular dog. In the last 50 years, however, it’s become a growing breed in the United States.


Similar in looks to the Shiba Inu, the Shikoku originates in Shikoku Island. Its size is between the Akita and the Shiba Inu. They were bred to hunt boar and deer in mountainous regions. They are sometimes called Kochi-ken. These dogs are known for their good judgment and loyalty to their owner.


This large breed is patient, courageous and obedient. According to the AKC, “This breed is also, by nature, watchful of other dogs and may react aggressively to dogs it considers intruders. Overtly aggressive behavior towards humans is uncharacteristic of the breed.” Tosa dogs are generally healthy. Working with a good breeder is key to ensuring you get a healthy puppy.