Hachikō – a faithful dog


“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

 

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Dog is the best friend of humankind. One dog in Japan proved his undying loyalty, waiting for his master’s return in the same location every single day for 10 years after his master’s death. It was Hachiko!


Hachikō (ハチ公), November 10, 1923 – March 8, 1935) was an Akita dog born on a farm near the city of Ōdate, Akita Prefecture, Japan. He is remembered for his remarkable loyalty to his owner, which continued for more than nine years after his owner’s death. Hachikō is known in Japanese as chūken Hachikō (忠犬ハチ公) “faithful dog Hachikō”, hachi meaning “eight” and kō meaning “affection.” During his lifetime, the dog was held up in Japanese culture as an example of loyalty and fidelity. Well after his death, he continues to be remembered in worldwide popular culture, with statues, movies, books, and appearances in various media.

Hachiko

In 1924, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo, took Hachikō, a golden brown Akita, as a pet. Ueno would commute daily to work, and Hachikō would leave the house to greet him at the end of each day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued the daily routine until May 1925, when Ueno did not return. The professor had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, while he was giving a lecture, and died without ever returning to the train station in which Hachikō would wait.

Each day, for the next nine years, nine months and fifteen days, Hachikō awaited Ueno’s return, appearing precisely when the train was due at the station.

Hachikō attracted the attention of other commuters. Many of the people who frequented the Shibuya train station had seen Hachikō and Professor Ueno together each day. Initial reactions from the people, especially from those working at the station, were not necessarily friendly. However, after the first appearance of the article about him on October 4, 1932 in Asahi Shimbun, people started to bring Hachikō treats and food to nourish him during his wait.

Hachikō died on March 8, 1935 at the age of 11 based on his date of birth. He was found on a street in Shibuya. In March 2011, scientists finally settled the cause of death of Hachikō: the dog had both terminal cancer and a filaria infection. There were also four yakitori skewers in Hachikō’s stomach, but the skewers did not damage his stomach or cause his death.

In April 1934, a bronze statue in his likeness was erected at Shibuya Station (35°39′32.6″N 139°42′2.1″E), and Hachikō himself was present at its unveiling. The statue was recycled for the war effort during World War II. In 1948, the Society for Recreating the Hachikō Statue commissioned Takeshi Ando, son of the original artist, to make a second statue. When the new statue appeared, a dedication ceremony occurred. The new statue, which was erected in August 1948, still stands and is a popular meeting spot. The station entrance near this statue is named “Hachikō-guchi”, meaning “The Hachikō Entrance/Exit”, and is one of Shibuya Station’s five exits.

The Japan Times played an April Fools’ joke on readers by reporting that the bronze statue was stolen a little before 2:00 AM on April 1, 2007, by “suspected metal thieves”. The false story told a very detailed account of an elaborate theft by men wearing khaki workers’ uniforms who secured the area with orange safety cones and obscured the theft with blue vinyl tarps. The “crime” was allegedly recorded on security cameras.

A similar statue stands in Hachikō’s hometown, in front of Ōdate Station. In 2004, a new statue of Hachikō was erected on the original stone pedestal from Shibuya in front of the Akita Dog Museum in Odate.

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After the release of the American movie Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009) filmed in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, the Japanese Consulate in US helped the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and the city of Woonsocket to unveil an identical statue of Hachiko at the Woonsocket Depot Square, which was the location of the “Bedridge” train station featured in the movie.

Each year on March 8, Hachikō’s devotion is honored with a solemn ceremony of remembrance at Tokyo’s Shibuya railroad station. Hundreds of dog lovers often turn out to honor his memory and loyalty.

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In 1994, the Nippon Cultural Broadcasting in Japan was able to lift a recording of Hachikō barking from an old record that had been broken into several pieces. A huge advertising campaign ensued and on Saturday, May 28, 1994, 59 years after his death, millions of radio listeners tuned in to hear Hachikō bark.

In July 2012, an exhibition containing rare photos from Hachiko’s life were shown at the Shibuya Folk and Literary Shirane Memorial Museum in Shibuya ward as part of the “Shin Shuzo Shiryoten” (Exhibition of newly stored materials). In November 2015, a previously undiscovered photograph of Hachikō was published for the first time. The image, which was captured in 1934 by a Tokyo bank employee, shows the dog relaxing in front of Shibuya Station.

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“Never mind, said Hachiko each day. Here I wait, for my friend who’s late. I will stay, just to walk beside you for one more day.”

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