Special train for four-legged friends: 21 dogs completed an extraordinary journey in Japan on Saturday in a Shinkansen high-speed train alongside their mistresses and masters.

A special permit was required for the train journey from Tokyo to the holiday resort of Karuizawa: Normally, pets have to be transported in boxes on the Shinkansen, and the dog and transport box together may not weigh more than ten kilograms.

This time the dogs were allowed to roam freely.

An entire train car was reserved for the pets and their owners.

The furry passengers boarded the train at Ueno Station in the Japanese capital, the journey to Karuizawa took an hour.

Among the dogs on board the train were several Pomeranians, a terrier and a pointy-eared Shiba Inu.

Dog owner Yukari Seino told AFP during the trip that she was "having a lot of fun." "We travel a lot together, but I've always felt bad about putting my dog ​​in a cage," she added while living her seven months old chihuahua on her lap.

Dog Express pilot project

The special trip was the first trip specifically for dogs by Japan Railways.

It is a pilot project, according to a representative of the subsidiary JR East Startup, more such trips are to be organized.

"We received many requests from customers who wanted to spend some relaxing time with their dogs on board," he told AFP.

The trip is a "big step towards more pet-friendly public transport".

A particular challenge for the train operator was to comply with the high hygiene standards of Japanese trains on the special trip for dogs.

The train staff had placed four air cleaners in the carriage and wrapped all the seats in plastic.

They are thoroughly cleaned after the trip to remove all dog hair.