Nihon Ken Glossary

Whether you’re new to the breed or been an owner for years, you will probably hear a number of Japanese terms thrown about when describing the Akita and other native breeds of Japan. For a lot of English speakers the new vocabulary can seem daunting. Very often the word is used in conversation with little or no explanation given or it appears in writing without a pronunciation guide. We’ve compiled a glossary of common terms with their definition, kanji, romanized spelling, and pronunciation.

Coat Colors

aka 🔊 — red
Red dogs have a burnt-orange to golden-yellow solid coat color. Red is one of the three colors of the Japanese Akita. The genetics term for this color is clear sable.
胡麻 goma 🔊 — sesame
Sesame dogs have black banded hairs all over the body on top of their base coat color. Sesame no longer exists in the Japanese Akita, but can be found in other native breeds of Japan. The genetics term for this color is agouti.

赤胡麻 akagoma 🔊 — red sesame
Sesame dogs with predominantly red undercoat.
黒胡麻 kurogoma 🔊 — black sesame
Sesame dogs with predominantly black/grey undercoat.
白胡麻 shirogoma 🔊 — white sesame
Sesame dogs with predominantly cream/yellow undercoat.
kuro 🔊 — black (black and tan)
Black and tan dogs have black coat with red or white points on the legs and face. Japanese Akita do not have black and tan, but some of the other native breeds do. The genetics term for this color is tan points.
shiro 🔊 — white
White dogs have a white to cream base coat color. White is one of the three colors of Japanese the Akita. The genetics term for this color is recessive yellow with low intensity.
tora 🔊 — tiger (brindle)
Brindle dogs have have striped coats with black, grey, red, and white hairs. Brindle is one of the three colors of the Japanese Akita. The genetics term for this color is brindle.

赤虎 akatora 🔊 — red tiger (red brindle)
Brindle dogs with predominantly red stripes.
中虎 chuutora 🔊 — middle tiger (brindle)
Brindle dogs with equal parts red and black stripes.
黒虎 kurotora 🔊 — black tiger (black brindle)
Brindle dogs with predominantly black stripes.
霜降り虎 shimofuritora 🔊 — salt and pepper tiger (silver brindle)
Brindle dogs with predominantly grey stripes.
白虎 shirotora 🔊 — white tiger (white brindle)
Brindle dogs with predominantly cream/yellow stripes.
有色 yuushoku 🔊 — colored
Colored dogs are red, brindle, sesame or black and tan – anything other than white. This term is most commonly used to refer to non-white Kishu Ken, one of the medium Japanese breeds.

Patterns and Markings

buchi 🔊 — freckles
Freckles are small colored spots on the white areas of a dog’s coat. Black freckles are common on the legs of brindle Japanese Akita, but red freckles are usually hidden by urajiro (below). The genetics term for this pattern is ticking.
鉢割れ hachiware 🔊 — crown divided (split face)
Split face describes a white blaze that extends up the forehead and past the ears, dividing the dog’s face into two colored parts. These markings are related to roppaku (below).
鼻欠け hanakake 🔊 — nose deficiency (butterfly nose)
Butterfly nose describes a dog with bright pink spots on its nose leather. The patches are randomly located and may be a tiny spot or almost the entire nose. It may take a puppy up to six months old for its nose to fill in with black, but if spots remain as an adult it is a fault. These markings are related to pinto (below).
ピント pinto 🔊 — pinto
Pinto describes a dog with excessive white markings, including but not limited to a full white collar, white on the shoulders or body, and white on the outside of the back legs. Like irish spotting, pinto markings are not symmetrical and will mask any base coat color. The genetics term for this pattern is piebald.
六白 roppaku 🔊 — six white
Six white describes a dog with four white socks, a white blaze on the face, and white tail tip. These markings differ from urajiro (below) in that the white can mask black parts of the dog’s coat, it does not have to be symmetrical, and it has hard edges between the white and colored areas. The genetics term for this pattern is irish spotting.
差し毛 sashige 🔊 — different hairs (dirty red)
Dirty red describes a red dog with black hairs or black tipped hairs mixed into its base coat color. These dogs may have a full saddle or resemble a sesame dog but lack two distinctive traits of sesame: spectacles around the eyes and black hairs on the underside (urajiro) areas of the dog. The genetics term for this pattern is shaded sable.
裏白 urajiro 🔊 — white underside
Urajiro describes a dog with dark coat on top of the body and white undersides. This pattern is symmetrical with soft gradation from white to red hairs. Urajiro does not affect the black hairs on a brindle or sesame dog and is not visible on a white dog. All of the native breeds of Japan express urajiro. The genetics term for this pattern is urajiro or countershading.

Coat Types

モク moku 🔊 — shaggy (long hair)
A mimetic word for long hair. It is short for mukumuku, which is the equivalent to calling a dog fluff fluff. Moku or muku are more commonly used than nagamou (below).
長毛 nagamou 🔊 — long hair
Long coated dogs have long, dense undercoat that is equal or greater length than guard hairs are normally. This coat is soft and wavy, matting easily and attracting burrs and ice. The genetics term for this trait is long coat.

Tail Types

巻き尾 makio 🔊 — curled tail
Curled tails are circular in shape and carried over the back with the tip of the tail touching or extending below the line of the back. Japanese Akita are required to have curled tails.

半巻き han-maki 🔊 — half curl
Curled tail that does not complete a full circle. May be described as a left (hidari) or right (migi) half curl.
左巻き hidari-maki 🔊 — left curl
Curled tail that rests on the left flank of the dog.
車巻き kuruma-maki 🔊 — wheel curl
Curled tail that rests upright centered on the dog’s spine.
右巻き migi-maki 🔊 — right curl
Curled tail that rests on the right flank of the dog.
二重巻き nijuu-maki 🔊 — double curl
Curled tail that coils back on itself more than one full circle. May be described as a left (hidari) or right (migi) double curl.
薙刀尾 naginatao 🔊 — halberd tail (sabre tail)
Halberd tails have a slight curve and are held straight out behind the dog with the tip pointing a little upward. It is not a common trait among the native breeds of Japan.
差し尾 sashio 🔊 — pointing tail (sickle tail)
Pointing tails have a slight curve and are carried over the back with the tip of the tail pointing forward but not touching the back. Many of the medium sized breeds of Japan have pointing tails.
太刀尾 tachio 🔊 — sword tail (gay tail)
Sword tails have a slight curve and are held straight up with the tip of the tail pointing upward or a little forward. Many of the medium sized breeds of Japan have sword tails.

Temperament

敢為 kan’i 🔊 — daring
Daring dogs have spirited boldness; they are well-balanced, courageous, and self-confident. Bravery does not mean vicious or aggressive.
良性 ryousei 🔊 — good nature
Good natured dogs are loyal and faithful with a gentle disposition. It is said that Japanese dogs bond strongly to only one person.
素朴 soboku 🔊 — simplicity
Simplicity refers to natural beauty without being contrived or flashy. An artless dog is uncomplicated, modest, and sincere.

Shows and Awards

本部賞 honbushou 🔊 — headquarters award
An award recognizing the excellence of a dog issued by AKIHO headquarters. May be awarded at a branch show to denote a particularly worthy dog.
本部展 honbuten 🔊 — headquarters exhibition
AKIHO holds two headquarter shows a year in May and December. The spring show is always in Odate and the winter show changes locations each time.
一席 isseki 🔊 — first place
The highest placement in a class besides the special awards, tokuyuu and meiyoshou (below). First place dogs may also be honbushou (above).
名誉賞 meiyoshou 🔊 — honorary award
The highest award any Japanese Akita in the world can earn. It is only awarded at a headquarter show. The dog goes down in history in the Akita Inu museum and its photo put on display like a hall of fame.
成犬 seiken 🔊 — adult dog
The age category for dogs 31 months and over. Only seiken dogs may earn honbushou, tokuyuu, and meiyoshou awards. High placement in this class is prestigious.
壮犬 souken 🔊 — robust dog (young adult dog)
The age category for dogs 18 to 30 months old. Eligible for number placements (first, second, third, etc) but no special awards.
立ち込み tachikomi 🔊 — standing included
The presentation of an Akita with a natural stack and leash pulled up at 45 to 90 degrees for best appearance of the head.
特優 tokuyuu 🔊 — especially superior
The highest award a Japanese Akita can earn outside of the headquarters show. It is awarded to the top dog(s) at a branch show only if the judge feels they are worthy. Tokuyuu is superior to first place, and the tokuyuu winner is invited to enter at the headquarters show.
若犬 wakainu 🔊 — young dog
The age category for dogs 11 to 18 months old. Eligible for number placements (first, second, third, etc) but no special awards.
幼稚犬 youchiken 🔊 — infant dog
The age category for dogs 3 to 6 months old. No awards are given but the judge may offer critique or advice to help the dog improve as it grows.
幼犬 youken 🔊 — very young dog
The age category for dogs 7 to 10 months old. Eligible for number placements (first, second, third, etc) but no special awards.

Miscellaneous

出来すぎ dekisugi 🔊 — too good to be true
Dekisugi refers to pups that are too balanced at a very young age. Often pups like this end up being too small, or losing proper balance in their face as their skeleton matures. [source]
go 🔊 — issue
A suffix to designate that as a sobriquet or a special class of name. All AKIHO registered Japanese Akita names end with Go.
inu 🔊 — dog
Inu and ken both mean dog. They are different readings of the same character and often interchangeable.
ken 🔊 — dog
Inu and ken both mean dog. They are different readings of the same character and often interchangeable.
犬舎 kensha 🔊 — kennel
A common suffix for the name of an AKIHO registered kennel. In recent years kensha has been banned from new kennel names; see sou (below).
日本犬 nihon ken 🔊 — Japanese dog
Refers to the six native breeds of Japan – Akita Inu, Hokkaido Ken, Kai Ken, Kishu Ken, Shiba Inu, and Shikoku Ken.
sou 🔊 — manor
A common suffix for the name of an AKIHO registered kennel. In recent years sou has become the preferred suffix for kennel names.

Pets Are Not Presents

Around this time we receive a lot of emails from people who want to get a Japanese Akita puppy for their spouse, kids, or friend for Christmas. But this problem is not limited to the holiday season; we get plenty of messages about birthday presents or anniversary surprises at other times of the year.

Puppy_NotPresent

Living creatures should never be a gift or surprise. Pets are a huge responsibility which all parties must be prepared for and ready to take care of for the animal’s entire life. They are not a commodity like jewelry and toys to be traded on a whim or to mark a special occasion.

Here is a hyperbole for you: Would you give someone a baby for Christmas? What if they don’t want a baby, or they don’t like the one you picked, or they can’t afford it? What if they’re not ready for it or the timing is wrong? What if they decide after a year of sleepless nights that the baby is just too much work? Are you going to take full responsibility for the baby if it is neglected after the novelty has worn off?

The idea of giving a baby as a gift is silly. Parents want to choose or plan for their own baby, not be given a random one. Babies are a lot of work, take a lot of preparation and planning, and require 16+ years devoted to raising and caring for them. They’re also really expensive. The potential to screw up their childhood or mental well-being is very high.

Giving a pet is no different than giving a baby, except that pets will be dependent upon their owners for their entire life. They’ll never have the luxury of being self-sufficient and able to leave a bad situation. Pets have no choice about who they live with or where they end up in life, no opportunity to change the fate dealt to them when they’re taken to their new home.

If you want to give someone the gift of animal companionship, buy them a gift certificate to use at a local shelter. You get a tax write-off, the shelter can immediately put the money to use for animals in need, and the recipient can go choose a pet that fits him or her when the time is right. Everyone wins. If it turns out that the recipient didn’t want a pet after all, you can both feel good knowing that you helped shelter animals and no puppy was hurt.

Japanese Show Leash & Collar

At AKIHO shows, the Japanese Akita is presented with a traditional rolled leather collar and hand-woven silk leash. This gear dates back to the first AKIHO shows in Japan and is only available from one shop in Tokyo. The store is called Adachiya, and all of the collars and leashes are hand made by artisan crafters. Adachiya wont ship leashes and collars internationally, so Akita enthusiasts in other parts of the world can have trouble getting a set for their show dogs. Often when a local club member is visiting Japan, they will take the opportunity to take orders and purchase leashes and collars for other members of club. If that is not an option, its good to cultivate a working relationship with a breeder or enthusiast in Japan willing to buy and ship the items to you, though you will then be paying shipping fees as well.

JapaneseLeash1

Silk leashes come in gold, silver, and other colors.

The leashes and collars come in two types – either colored or silver/gold. The silver/gold sets are preferred for showing, particularly major shows like the Honbuten (annual HQ show). Gold sets are used for red dogs while silver sets are used for brindle or white dogs. While not a hard and fast “rule” using the appropriate color set presents the dog better and will be better received by the Japanese judge. Colored sets can be red, blue, purple, black, or other colors and have no guidelines for which coat colors they match; it depends on the individual dog what looks best.

Complete silver and gold sets from Adachiya.

Silver and gold sets new in packaging.

At UKC shows in the US, the Japanese show leash and collar are allowed but often cause confusion for the judge. We show our dogs with the traditional gear, and spend a lot of time having to explain it to every new judge we encounter. Nonetheless, we feel that our dogs should be presented in the traditional manner and that judge education is worth a little inconvenience and ridicule.

Gold leash and collar for a red dog.

Gold set for a red dog.

Silver leash and collar for white or brindle dog.

Silver set for white or brindle dog.

It is always good to back up the collar with a chain. At AKIHO shows the additional chain is required for male dogs, though we use it on all of our dogs. Standard hex link or fancy snake link show chains both work well. We prefer show chains that are chrome or gold plated to match the silver or gold collars and leashes. At UKC shows we often forgo the leather collar and use only the chain with the Japanese leash.

Here you can see the collar and show chain a couple inches below.

Collar buckle with visible show chain beneath.

A notable feature of the Japanese rolled leather collar is the position of the buckle opposite the post for attaching the leash. This creates less “bulk” on the dog’s neck and presents a more balanced, symmetrical display of the dog. When the buckle is adjacent to the attachment point, it tends to look clunky and awkward.

When in motion, the collar and chain can be seen.

When in motion, the collar and chain can be seen.

Leash and Collar Sizes

The table below lists all of the sizes available. These leashes and collars are used for the other native breeds of Japan as well, and each breed and sex is noted next to the appropriate size. Hopefully this will help you pick the correct one for your dog. Always measure your dog’s neck if you’re unsure about collar size. Takes this measurement tight against the skin directly behind the ears/jaw and add 10 cm.

Complete silver set along with a few different sizes of show chain.

Complete silver set along with a few different sizes of show chain.

Note: Puppies or undersized dogs use one leash size smaller than the standard female size for that breed (eg. an Akita puppy uses a size 5 leash).

Breed Sex Neck Collar Leash
Shiba Female 27.5 – 32 cm 36 cm Size 7
30.5 – 35 cm 39 cm
33.5 – 38 cm 42 cm
Male 30.5 – 35 cm 39 cm
33.5 – 38 cm 42 cm Size 6
34.5 – 40.5 cm 45 cm
Hokkaido, Kai,
Kishu, or Shikoku
Female 33.5 – 38 cm 42 cm
34.5 – 40.5 cm 45 cm
37.5 – 43.5 cm 48 cm
Male 34.5 – 40.5 cm 45 cm
37.5 – 43.5 cm 48 cm Size 5
39 – 46.5 cm 51 cm
Akita Female 37.5 – 43.5 cm 48 cm
39 – 46.5 cm 51 cm
42 – 49.5 cm 54 cm Size 4
Male 42 – 49.5 cm 54 cm
45 – 52.5 cm 57 cm Size 3
48 – 55.5 cm 60 cm

Leash and Collar Prices

Below are the most recent prices from Adachiya’s website in JPY and converted to USD. Use the table above to determine which size you need for your dog. There is no sales tax in Japan, but shipping and handling fees will apply if you purchase through someone living in Japan and have it sent to you.

The traditional collar presents the dog with a full face.

Hold the leash at 45 degrees, not straight up!

Note: Colored collars and leashes are not currently available for Shibas from Adachiya’s website. Last checked February 25th, 2017. Conversion to USD is automatic based on current exchange rates.

Item Price (Colored) Price (Silver/Gold)
Leash, Size 7 ¥6,400 JPY $56.94 USD ¥12,150 JPY $108.09 USD
Leash, Size 6 ¥6,400 JPY $56.94 USD ¥13,500 JPY $120.10 USD
Leash, Size 5 ¥6,800 JPY $60.50 USD ¥16,200 JPY $144.12 USD
Leash, Size 4 ¥7,600 JPY $67.61 USD ¥20,250 JPY $180.15 USD
Leash, Size 3 ¥8,300 JPY $73.84 USD ¥23,600 JPY $216.18 USD
Collar, 36 cm ¥5,080 JPY $45.19 USD ¥6,480 JPY $57.65 USD
Collar, 39 cm ¥5,400 JPY $48.04 USD ¥6,800 JPY $60.50 USD
Collar, 42 cm ¥6,050 JPY $53.82 USD ¥7,130 JPY $63.43 USD
Collar, 45 cm ¥6,480 JPY $57.65 USD ¥7,780 JPY $69.21 USD
Collar, 48 cm ¥7,130 JPY $63.43 USD ¥9,500 JPY $84.52 USD
Collar, 51 cm ¥7,780 JPY $69.21 USD ¥10,400 JPY $92.52 USD
Collar, 54 cm ¥8,200 JPY $72.95 USD ¥11,250 JPY $100.08 USD
Collar, 57 cm ¥8,640 JPY $76.86 USD ¥12,100 JPY $107.65 USD
Collar, 60 cm ¥9,720 JPY $86.47 USD ¥12,960 JPY $115.30 USD

For example, if you have a large female Akita, you should use a 54 cm collar ($100.08) and size 4 leash ($180.15) which will cost about $280.24 for the set.

Useful Links

Bag Balm Cures ‘Old Man Elbows’

Dogs can develop calluses on their elbows and other areas of the body, just like people get them on their feet or hands. If you see gray, bare spots on your dog’s elbow, those are calluses. As the dog’s elbow rubs on hard surfaces, hairs break off and the skin underneath becomes scabby or scaly looking. The fur around it may also be a rust-brown color from the dog’s saliva if he licks at it frequently. At our house we call these calluses “old man elbow.” They can be prevented and treated. Continue reading