• Chunichi Shimbun

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The pet industry is the latest sector to take advantage of growing interest in the city of Shima, Mie Prefecture, ahead of next month’s Group of Seven summit.

In response to increasing demand for pets nationwide, a facility run by the Shima City Council for Social Welfare has started producing dog treats using seaweed. A dog hotel in Kashikojima, the summit’s main location, is also gaining popularity.

In one employment support facility for people with disabilities, run by the council, the smell of the sea wafts into a baking studio.

Members mix aosa (dried sea lettuce) and hijiki (brown algae) — both Shima specialities — into a dough for dog cookies.

The idea of using local ingredients to make cookies came from Carve, a consulting firm based in Tsu, Mie Prefecture, that saw a business opportunity with the booming pet industry combined with summit promotions.

The council gladly accepted the proposal, seeing it as a way for disabled members to earn an income.

A 75-year-old part-timer, Tsuneo Nakanishi, who worked as a pastry chef for many years at a large confectionery firm in Tokyo, was placed in charge of producing the cookies.

“This will help the facility members and promote Shima,” he said.

He worked on the dough mixture, creating four varieties using aosa, hijiki and other raw ingredients.

The group produces roughly 2 kg of cookies a day and started selling them in shopping centers in Mie Prefecture in February under the name Candy’s Bakery.

“Thanks to the summit, we’ve had very positive responses from outside the prefecture and sales (are) increasing,” said Carve President Kazuhito Hobo, 46.

With Japan’s aging populations, pets have achieved family member status.

A survey by the Japan Pet Food Association in Tokyo showed there are around 20 million pet dogs and cats in the country.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, there are 16.17 million children age 14 or younger in Japan.

More businesses are also targeting people who want to travel with their pets.

The dog hotel Maze is just a few hundred meters across the water from Kashikojima, where the summit will be held.

The owner, 59-year-old dog lover Akira Mitsuhashi, transformed a former marina cafe into the hotel six years ago and applied for permission from the Ise public health center to operate the facility.

The hotel accepts midsize dogs, including from tourists.

According to the Shima-City Tourist Association, there are very few facilities that allow travelers to bring pets, whose local numbers have increased due to the summit promotion.

Maze has seen an influx of customers as a result.

“I want to fulfill the wishes of those who want to travel to Shima with their dogs. I hope to contribute to the city through tourism,” Mitsuhashi said.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on April 6.

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