As I have years of experience living and working in Japan, people sometimes ask me what they might do when they visit Japan.
What I would recommend for starters is to visit an animal rescue shelter in Japan. Like ARK, acronym for Animal Rescue Kansai (the western region of Japan). ARK is in the hills of Toyono, Osaka. Even if you don’t speak any Japanese, if you can catch the founder, Elizabeth Oliver, you’ll be able to communicate with her in English. She is, after all, British.
Yes, rather unusual for a Brit to move to Japan and start a shelter for animals but that’s what happened. Elizabeth used to rescue animals on her own. She started ARK in 1990 to get more people involved in rescuing stray, abandoned and abused animals. She also needed to raise money so that she could continue dedicating her life to animals.
ARK became officially recognized as an NPO (Non-Profit Organization) in September 1999. Its goal is to form a network of people who love animals, want to share their lives with them, and work actively to rescue animals from suffering. ARK rehabilitates animals and finds loving homes for them.
After the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, Elizabeth saved 600 dogs. She is also proactive in prosecution.
According to their website, ARK currently houses dogs, cats, rabbits, a pig, a chicken, a chinchilla, a guinea pig and a hedgehog.
You can see cute pics of dogs and cats waiting for adoption. Like Sow, an orange and white tabby (a stunner!) and Ron, a long-hair brown tabby (If I were in Japan, I’d adopt him on the spot!).
To give you a sample of the kind of bios they have of their animals, here’s a little bio of a white cat, copied from ARK:
“No, I don’t have big ears and a long trunk like Dumbo the elephant. I was named Dumbo because I was abandoned in a “danboo-ru” which means a cardboard box in Japanese! I love food and people. I often show off my tummy and I love to be petted! I would make a nice addition to your family! Definitely I would make a much better pet than an elephant would!”
If you can’t go to Osaka, you can visit ARK in Tokyo. Its primary purpose is to educate people about animal welfare. ARK doesn’t yet have a large shelter operating in Tokyo, but they are looking for people to join their foster program.
So if you’re going to be living in Japan temporarily, and miss having pets, you might consider volunteering as a foster parent for dogs or cats while they are waiting for permanent homes.
Even if you have no plans to go to Japan, you can visit their website – it’s bilingual in English and Japanese. It offers some information about dog and cat health, and an archive of bilingual newsletters.
Or, check out “Angels with Fur Japan,” their blog about pets and animals in Japan:
To contact ARK, email tokyoark[at]arkbark.net or, in Kansai, call 072-737-0712. In Tokyo, call 080-6146-3889 (English) or 080-6517-8913 (Japanese).