Yet another “Only in Japan” story, but we just had to delve deeper into this one! According to many of the foreign press outlets this week, hundreds, possibly thousands of Japanese women have been conned into buying baby lambs, which they thought were in fact poodles. Coming from a background where an annual highlight is Christmas lamb, this story tested my limits. But this is Tokyo, and anything is possible.
This astonishing discovery was made on prime time TV, where actress Maiko Kawakami (川上麻衣子) was proudly showing off pictures of her new pet poodle. When she wondered out loud why her short-cut, cute new puppy would neither bark, nor eat dog food, members of the panel amusingly pointed out that it was perhaps not a puppy, but in fact a common sheep! According to the reports, the police subsequently fielded thousands of calls from distressed women, who suddenly realized that their dogs “bark” only made it to “ba…”
Once my ribcage recovered from the hilarity and bizarreness of this supposed situation, I got on to scouring the Japanese news sites to verify this, because could it really be true? I could not find a single reference in the Japanese news. And no, it was not April 1st, but fool on anyone who throws a poodle in the pot for Christmas.
The only evidence exists at the source. Maiko Kawakami writes a daily diary on her website, the entry is here, which contains one line, nonchalantly saying “I have had emails from people who have also heard of toy poodles which have actually turned out to be lambs. But they have not heard what happened to them since, which is worrying.” A single comment on her blog states that this incident was shown on CNN News, but they stressed that this was only “something that Kawakami had heard about”.
A search for images of “toy poodle” brought up pictures of many breeds of dog, a couple of rabbits, kittens, and even a budgy, but alas, no sheep. Despite this though, the Japanese authorities have reported to the foreign press that they have shut down at least one company, which has imported from Australia and sold over 2,000 lambs as poodles, for over 150,000 yen each. This is about half the cost of a purebred non-sheep poodle in Japan.
Maiko Kawakami, born in Sweden, is now 41. Her first hit drama series in 1979 was called Kizuna, and then the high school drama”3-nen B-kumi- Kinpachi Sensei”, which is still shown on reruns 28 years later. Then, 4 years later, at 17, she was launched further into stardom appearing in a provocative “photographic essay” called “Atsui Kuni, Yume no Kuni, Umareta Kuni” (A hot country, a country of dreams, the country I was born”), shot by the well-known photographer Kishin Shinoyama.
These days, Kawakami is a famous actress, appearing often on TV talk shows, as well as a number of Japanese movies and drama series per year, including the current Usuwashiki-Oni drama series.
Despite the popularity of Usuwashiki-Oni, we were not so surprised that the Japanese media decided that one of the main stars having the wool pulled over their eyes in such a fashion was not worth mentioning. No doubt Kawakami will be sheepish in returning to prime time TV…
We would love to hear from anyone who actually saw this on TV. Please leave your comments below! By the way, the “Urban Legends” site has classed this story as FALSE, but lets not let that get in the way of a good yarn…!