Japan robot dog owners pray for their pets' health

STORY: Japan's Shichi-Go-San - Japanese for "Seven-Five-Three" - ceremony is usually a way for parents to celebrate their children growing up and wish them health and good fortune in the future.

It sees families dress up in kimono before heading to their local shrine for a ceremony.

But as Japanese families change and the number of children continues to shrink, one Tokyo shrine is hosting a celebration for an unusual kind of pet - the Sony Aibo robotic dog.

For many Aibo owners attending the Sony-organised ceremony in Tokyo's Kanda neighbourhood, the robots, roughly the size of a domestic cat, have become part of the family. For others, the robots are a practical response to the tight restrictions many Japanese landlords place on pet ownership.

"I like dogs and I wanted to get one but our apartment doesn't allow pets, so I thought this might be good," 59-year-old public sector worker Yukari Makita told Reuters, after attending the Shichi-Go-San ceremony with her husband and their robotic pets.

"Also with work, taking a dog for walks and so on is kind of tough, right? This little one doesn't require any effort, so it's great," she said.