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Missing such sweet serow, Japan gets the goat

During the summer, I met a woman who told me that “a strange guy with a goat” had moved to Kitagi Island, the one next to Shiraishi, where I live.

“He also plays the guitar,” she said.

I was intrigued. Strange guys? Goats and guitars? Bring it on!

I grew up with two older brothers who both had guitars. For a time, we had two other kids living with us too: goats. The little goats were loads of fun, and much better at getting into trouble than even we were.

Occasionally one of them would get into the house. Want to know where the cud-chewers headed to every time they broke in? To the fridge for beers? Nope. They made a beeline for the fireplace and started eating the ashes. Why? Be-cudz charcoal acts as an antidote for goats and helps ward off the effects of poisonous plants. It’s the goat equivalent of sipping on a hot cup of Japanese green tea.

It’s true that goats will eat anything. Almost. They’ll at least sample anything, especially if it happens to be your luxury Louis Vuitton handbag. I’ve never met a goat who was above sampling even a steel pipe, just in case it’s edible.

Got a Stradivarius in the house? Don’t get a goat! They’ll devour it after sampling just a couple strings. We didn’t have a Strad in our house but it was always imperative to get the bovids out of the house before they ingested the sofa.

Goats will even eat poisonous plants that can kill them: Thus, charcoal.

But hey, goats are cute, right? And they can make good pets. Whereas cats will walk away when you need them most, goats will continue to nibble at your fingers, root through your pockets, or just eat whatever you’re wearing. They’ll give you so much attention, you’ll have to fight them off like Nara deer.

The ungulates also make good employees, according to the JR railway network, which has used them for years to keep weeds trimmed around the train tracks. You should start worrying, however, if goat starts appearing in ekiben train station lunches.

Amazon Japan has also been employing the ruminants as eco-friendly weed-eaters, and even doubled its workforce this spring. I’d certainly prefer a braying lawn mower to the noise of an engine-powered one.

With all the publicity goats have been getting in print and TV, it’s no surprise that the browsers have made their way into the hearts of the Japanese and that the country is experiencing a goat boom. There are even goat cafes now, where you can pet nannies and billies while enjoying a latte.

The current goat-fest may also have something to do with the “kamoshika incident.” Kamoshika is the term for the Japanese serow, described as a goat-antelope creature endemic to Japan’s mountains and forests. (You gotta wonder who that translator was: goat-antelope?! Shouldn’t it be goatalope?)

The furry forest dweller was decimated and nearly hunted to extinction by 1955, when government protection was finally enforced and the kamoshika gained its designation as a national treasure. The animal is known for its agility and sprinting ability (thus, the Yamaha Serow motorcycle) and Princess Mononoke rides a serow-like creature in the movie of the same name. In today’s kawaii Japan, surely people are feeling a kamoshika deficit and are wanting to replace the goatalope with a more available ruminant. Adorable goats to the rescue!

One owner of a goat cafe in Tokyo said she chose goats over cats and dogs for her cafe because “goats have more impact.” Yep, that’s what putting a pastoral animal in the city will do.

Still, a farm animal seems an unlikely candidate for a nationwide goat-o-rama.

What’s next, goat “snack baas” where, rather than drowning your sorrows with a mizuwari and an aging hostess, you can do it with a goat? Wouldn’t you prefer to confide in a goat about your serows?

I have a neighbor who wanted a goat. She has an adequate place to keep it and plenty of land for it to graze on and space enough for it to kick up its hooves. But when the farmer delivered her goat, she refused it.

“It’s too old,” she said.

The goat had just reached 3 months. But she wanted a newborn that she could coddle like a baby and feed with a bottle.

I don’t know about you, but that kinda gets my goat. And here’s why.

Too many animals in Japan are tossed out after they grow up and are no longer cute. If you don’t see an adult goat and find it absolutely adorable, then you shouldn’t get a newborn either. Animals need to be respected for what they are, not what they look like.

Goats grow up to be adults. Males, once they hit puberty, are smelly. Billies can reach 30 kg and can be very cantankerous, butting their horned heads on things, even knocking you off your feet. Horns and gonads need to be removed while goats are still kids to ensure they are safe as pets. Furthermore, goats need proper nutrition, a salt lick and a mound of rocks to climb onto (to keep their hooves properly trimmed).

So I suggest that you fall in love with an avuncular goat first, because most of your 15 to 18 years as a pet owner are going to be with that goat, not a newborn. Remember, you’re not the cute little baby you once were, either.

But back to the strange guy with a goat: I did go over to Kitagi Island to look for him. He turned out to be my friend Kuni-san. I just never knew he had a goat. In fact, he has four! He not only uses them for weed-eating — he drinks the goats’ milk and makes goat cheese. He even sings and plays his guitar to them.

That’s not a “strange guy with a goat”; that’s a good goat owner.

Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp

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