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The Japanese Chin: Royal Japanese Presents

By Connie Limon

The Japanese Chin has not always been known as the “Japanese Chin.” In the beginning of the Japanese Chin in Europe and America he was known as the Japanese Spaniel and although called “Japanese,” there is no real proof that its native land is Japan. Several Japanese Chin historians believe the term ‘Chin’ must have been a mistranslation.

The Chin Dog in Japan was written in the early 1960s by Mr. Koichi Uoi, Dr. Hideo Wakui and Dr. Seikoh Yoshida. In this book they added a disclaimer about the name, which states: “The Chin is heretofore called “Japanese Spaniel’ in Europe and America, but the term must be a mistranslation, because the Chin is neither of Spanish line, nor a house. Taking the opportunity of publishing this book, we propose you call it ‘Chin’.” Still yet another writer feels there has been a further mis-translation and that “Spanish line” should read “spaniel.”

The Japanese Chin makes contact with the West by way of trade between England and Japan which started in 1549. At that time it was customary for gifts to be exchanged. Japanese Chin historians believe it is very likely that the ‘Japanese’ race of dogs was part of this trade and gifts.

In 1613 Captain Saris returned from Japan with dogs for the King as a present from the Emperor. It is felt these dogs were probably the Japanese Spaniel.

The historian Kaempfer visited Japan in 1691 for the Dutch East India Company. He tells us since the reigning Emperor (Kin-Sen, 1687) came to the throne, there were more dogs bred in Japan than anywhere else. The Japanese have long had a special love for breeding dogs.

The Chief Factor for Japan of the East India Company from 1615 to 1623 was a man called Richard Cocks. Mr. Cocks kept a diary of events during this his time period as the Chief Factor. He complained about the enormous number of presents required to help keep commerce relationships smooth between the Japanese and the British. Dogs were presented as imperial gifts very often. The custom of presenting dogs as Imperial gifts persisted to the mid-19th century.

By the 19th century Japan was perceived as a country of real importance to the USA. Japan’s harbors and coal deposits lay on the main route from San Francisco to Shanghai.

Contact with the English-speaking world ended in 1623. In 1852 a new American expedition visited Japan under the command of Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry. When Perry arrived at the coast of Japan on July 8th 1853 he brought with him several gifts that were delivered to the Japanese with a great ceremony. Among the gifts were:

•One quarter-size miniature steam engine, track, tender and car
•One Francis’ copper lifeboat
•One surf boat of copper
•Audubon’s Birds, in nine vols.
•Natural History of the State of New York, sixteen vols.
•Silver-topped dressing case
•Quarter-cask of Madeira
•Barrel of whisky
•Telescope and stand in box
•Flowered silk embroidered dress
•Six dozen assorted perfumery.

The Japanese were delighted by the generosity of the Americans. However, the Americans were not so impressed by the gifts from the Japanese.

The Japanese gifts were seven Japanese Chins (and because the Japanese so adored their dogs, these were probably thought to be very special and extra treasured gifts). Four Japanese Chins were given to the Commodore as a gift for the President. William Speiden, the fleet purser’s son was also given a Chin. Two other Japanese Chin were taken back to America aboard a separate ship. All total was five Japanese Chins taken on board Perry’s own vessel. Three of these adorable creatures were reported to have died en route. Two were later transferred to the British Admiral Stirling’s ship and eventually presented to Queen Victoria. Two Japanese Chins reached New York safely and were given to Mrs. Augusta Belmont, Perry’s daughter.

The Commodore later learned that there are three articles which in Japan, as he understood it, always formed part of an Imperial present. These were:

•Dried Fish
•And dogs.

Some also said Charcoal was included. Surely all these items served some kind of symbol to the Japanese people, of which, he did not learn of. The charcoal was part of the gifts given at this time. And four small dogs of a rare breed were sent to the President as part of the Japanese Emperor’s gift to the U.S. Also public prints tell us two were put on board Admiral Stirling’s ship for Her Majesty of England.

Dogs were always part of a Royal Japanese Present. And it was always the kind you never see running on the streets. They were carried in beautiful straw baskets when they were taken outdoors. It was understood that the Royal Japanese Presents of “dogs” and specifically the Japanese Chin were “rare and costly.”

By contrast, those things considered “special” to the Americans was a telescope standing in a box, a barrel of whiskey, New York History books, books about birds………Apparently the Japanese thought the Americans were very generous people, and the Americans felt the little dogs, rice, dried fish and charcoal was a poor display not worth over a thousand dollars some said.

I rather have the little dogs myself! I would have been delighted and overjoyed to have received one of those little Japanese Chins as opposed to a barrel of whiskey and books about birds or the history of New York City!

I think all of us today who love the Japanese Chin realize just the same as the Japanese people realized that they are a great treasure to receive and to own. To some of us, they are still “Royal” Japanese Presents.

This article is FREE to publish with the resource box.

About the Author: Connie Limon. Visit us at and sign up for our FREE newsletters. About Toy Dogs is a toy dog breeder and article directory. Purchase ad space at $25 per year. Purchase all natural pet food at

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