"One after the other, dogs are being abandoned in Ehime Prefecture. The place is commonly referred to as inusute yama (mountain where dogs are abandoned)," said the head of an animal protection organization in the Shikoku region.
His words evoke the image of ubasute yama, a legendary place in antiquity where impoverished families, unable to shoulder the burden of feeding or caring for their enfeebled parents, would take them to a remote place and abandon them to the elements.
Actually, folklorist Kunio Yanagita (1875-1962) concluded that the practice of ubasute was more likely the subject of legend, with origins in India’s Buddhist mythology. It does not seem to have ever been a common practice in Japan.
Not for humans at least. But Shukan Gendai (Dec 2-9) appears to have got wind of what it calls the "dark side of the pet boom," a place in Ehime Prefecture where abandoned dogs are left to fend for themselves.
Shukan Gendai's reporter visited Toon (pronounced Toh-on), a city of around 33,000 people located in central Ehime, to the east of the prefectural capital Matsuyama.
"At a grassy spot near the entrance to a shopping center," he writes, "I got out of my car and saw two white dogs flee. Looking further I saw a black dog, one with stripes and another with long brown fur. Then I saw a brown miniature dog and one with black fur.
"None of them were wearing collars, but they seemed to be accustomed to being around humans. But another pack of dogs that converged on the shopping mall parking lot seemed more feral."
Nearby, a petite elderly woman was observed opening a plastic bag and setting out leftover food.
For the past 10 years the woman had been feeding the dogs on a daily basis. Local residents had asked her to refrain from feeding them, but she continues.
"One of my neighbors had been keeping a dog, but when it got big he abandoned it on the mountain," the woman told the reporter. "Right after that he went out and got a new one. It's depressing to see humans sacrifice living things merely to indulge in their own egos."
"Aren't pets like members of the family?" the woman asked rhetorically. "Before they stop me from feeding the dogs, they should punish those who abandon their pets."
It appears that Ehime's "dog-dumping" mountain is just the tip of a huge iceberg of animal abuse. According to the Environment Ministry, on a national basis, Ehime, Kagawa and Tokushima in Shikoku accounted for three of Japan's top four prefectures for euthanizing pets in 2021: The combined total for the three was 717, accounting for 26% of all animals destroyed in Japan. A majority of these were said to be feral or homeless dogs.
Why, the writer wonders, are there so many abandoned animals in Shikoku? The answer was soon forthcoming.
"The dogs are brought here from Osaka, Kobe and other big cities," a person involved in the pet business is quoted as saying. "Crooks who profess to belong to humane organizations accept 'donations' while pledging to save animals from being euthanized. They are just using the dogs to make money, and afterwards take them to rural Ehime and release them."
Shikoku's hinterlands boast many mountains and forested areas where humans seldom venture.
"Dump a dog here, and nobody will catch you or punish you for it," the aforementioned source explained.
Alas, the nefarious schemes of unscrupulous humans may even be deeper, and more impenetrable, than the mountains and forests of rural Shikoku, the writer concludes gravely.© Japan Today