New Japan service renders pets eternal
The boom in the pet business in Japan in the 1990s is having an inevitable impact today as the puppies and kittens of then reach the end of their lives.
A range of new services have cropped up across the country, including mobile crematoria mounted in the back of a van that will arrive at a customer's house, cremate the pet and then provide an urn containing the animal's ashes.
But for a more permanent - and stylish - reminder of a deceased pet, a company based in the central Japan prefecture of Shiga has come up with the idea of immortalizing a cherished part of the family.
L-Born will take a dead pet's ashes, mix them with the clay from the bed of nearby Lake Biwa - which is renowned for providing the sandy, orange-tinted clay that is used to produce sought-after Shigaraki ware - and then bake the ashes in jewelry.
"I had a pet dog that died eight years ago and I can still recall how upset I was that I was not able to have a permanent reminder of her," company spokeswoman Akemi Imai told Relaxnews.
"We believe that these items of jewelry will serve as eternal reminders of a pet and an important member of the family," she said.
According to the Pet Food Institute of Japan, there are at present 26.84 million pets in Japanese households, an increase of more than 1.3 million from 2008. The same study, completed in April, found that one third of the dogs and cats were over 10 years old, effectively making them "senior citizens" of the pet world.
The idea for incorporating a pet's ashes into something that an owner can keep and cherish came from a novel by Junichi Watanabe, she said. In Namidatsubo, a man whose wife has died mixes her ashes with clay and makes a vase to remind him of her.
L-Born has taken that one step further and produced a range of fashionable accessories, including necklaces and bracelets that include spheres of clay and ashes in a range of colors.
The company can also make a "jizo" statue out of clay and ashes, similar to those that are placed in the grounds of Japanese temples by parents whose children die before them.
Imai says the jewelry serves as a memorial to an animal companion that will effectively be staying with its master for ever.
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