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Hachiko: The Story Of A Dog’s Undying Devotion To Its Owner

At A Glance

Hachiko was a purebred Akita-inu who lived in central Tokyo with its owner, Hidesaburō Ueno, in the 1920s. The dog is famously known to visit the Shibuya Train Station every day, waiting for its master to return from work and go home with him. This continued for more than nine years after Ueno passed away, until Hachiko died.

  • Hachiko is a prominent figure with many movies made about him, such as the 1987 Japanese film Hachikō Monogatari and the 2009 American drama Hachi: A Dog's Tale.
  • A bronze Hachiko statue stands by the station where locals and tourists alike respectfully take photos beside the landmark.

If Hachiko isn’t the reason why dogs are considered man’s best friend, then it very well be.

The Hachiko real story is about faith, duty, and devotion.

In a world where everyone is constantly running toward their next goal and barely taking the time to enjoy the company of their loved ones, the legendary Japanese dog reminds us of what is truly important.

That is, looking after the people you love and remaining loyal to them.

Hachiko has solidified his prominent position as history’s most loyal dog. His steadfast commitment and fidelity continues to inspire people and melt the hearts of dog lovers around the world.

Get to know the Hachiko dog story and legacy!

 

What Is the Story Of Hachiko?

The story starts with Hachiko owner Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor at the Tokyo Imperial University, who always wanted to look after a purebred Japanese Akita-inu (“dog” is “inu” in Japanese).

He might have known about the courageous, willful, intelligent, loyal nature of the breed. It could have also been convenient for the busy man that Akita dogs thrive in one-dog homes.

Then, he heard about Hachiko, an Akita-inu born on November 10, 1923 at a farm near Odate, Akita Prefecture. So, sometime in 1924, Ueno happily brought the puppy to his home in Shibuya, Tokyo.

They quickly established a strong connection, and Hachiko would happily drop off his owner at the Shibuya train station every morning. Ueno would pat it on the head and go to work. The dog would spend the day around the station awaiting its master’s return.

Station workers and nearby shopkeepers would watch over Hachiko, occasionally giving him treats throughout the day. It would be enough to keep the dog occupied.

At the end of each day, Ueno alighted from the train into the welcoming barks and tail wags of his pet.

The routine would continue until Ueno died of a cerebral hemorrhage at his workplace on May 21, 1925. He wasn’t able to return to Shibuya Station.

Day after day for one year when Ueno was still alive, Hachiko picked him up from the train station. Remarkably, the dog didn’t break this habit even after he passed away.

For the next nine years, nine months, and 15 days, the Akita-inu continued coming back to the station at the same time every day, still waiting for its master to come home.

Hachiko stayed committed to its duty until it died on the morning of March 8, 1935. After years of waiting at the Shibuya station, the dog finally reunited with its master.

How Did Hachiko Become Famous?

Contrary to popular belief, the dog’s name was just “Hachi,” which means “eight” in Japanese and considered a lucky number in the local culture.

The “ko” comes from a suffix used for ancient dukes. It was added to the end of the dog’s name to denote respect and admiration for its lifelong attachment and faithfulness to its owner. Thus, it became known as Hachiko.

But why is this Akita-inu still well-loved and respected until today?

Overcoming Obstacles

Hachiko was adored by the staff at Shibuya train station, but their affection could not replace the love of its owner. The dog was actually given away and hopped from home to home miles away from Shibuya. But always, it would find its way back to the station every day.

Finally, the Akita-inu decided to stay put with Ueno’s gardener, Kozaburo Kobayashi, whose residence was near Ueno’s and the Shibuya Station.

There are stories about Hachiko getting beaten and shooed away by pedestrians as it lingered around the station, but it endured all that while awaiting its master.

Thankfully, the Asahi Shimbun publication featured the dog’s story. Soon, train commuters were bringing it food and treats.

Remarkable Devotion

Love and affection are easy to get, but loyalty is hard to come by.

This was the running theme of Hirokichi Saito’s Hachiko articles published at the Asahi Shimbun for several years.

Saito was then the chairman of Nihon Ken Hozonkai, or Association for the Preservation of the Japanese Dog. He was also one of Ueno’s former students.

Recognizing Hachiko at the Shibuya Station, he followed it to Kobayashi’s home. Deeply touched by its loyalty to his professor, Saito frequently visited it and wrote about its story.

In 1932, one of his articles caught national attention and made Hachiko a household name.

Hachiko lost the loving care and attention it received from its owner early on. But it spent the rest of its life believing he would come back to the station and they would go home together.

This Akita-inu is an example of pure dedication and allegiance, and many dog owners can’t help but be empathetic about its relationship with its owner.

the real Hachiko Image : Japan Daily

How Did Hachiko Die?

The celebrated Hachiko dog stayed committed to its routine for more than nine years after its master’s passing, until it was found dead on the morning of March 8, 1935. It was around 12 years old in human years and would’ve been in its 70s based on dog years.

In the autopsy, the findings were that Akita-inu passed away due to a swallowed yakitori skewer that punctured its internal organs.

Hachiko’s body was taken to the Shibuya Station’s baggage room, one of its favorite spots while awaiting its master’s return. It was carefully laid in the room. Then, surrounded by Ueno’s wife and station workers, they took its photo one last time.

Shibuya train station staff member Yoshizo Osawa gifted the famed photograph to his daughter. Osawa would fondly tell her about the Akita-inu’s daily trip to the station and how the staff would happily share meals with the dog.

This anecdote is just one of many, demonstrating that Hachiko was just as loved and respected when he was alive as he is now.

Seven decades later, in 2010, the agriculture faculty of the University of Tokyo re-examined the dog’s preserved and bottled organs. They found that it, in fact, died of parasitic disease and cancer.

Hachiko's statue in Japan

What Is Hachiko’s Legacy?

Hachiko never missed a day of going to the Shibuya train station to check whether its master was finally back. The dog didn’t lose hope that he would come home.

Other than being a loyal pet, however, Hachiko’s legacy has multiple layers to it.

Statues

The Akita-inu’s most famous statue currently rests outside the Shibuya train station in Tokyo, a proud symbol of Japan’s capital city. Named Hachiko-guchi (Hachiko Entrance/Exit), it’s one of the station’s five exits and a popular meeting spot.

Meanwhile, the Odate City Station in Akita Prefecture, where the dog was born, displays not only a Hachiko statue but also a Hachiko shrine on the train’s platform. At the City Hall, a postbox serves as a stand of another statue.

Additionally, the University of Tokyo raised more than ¥10 million in donations in commemoration of Hachiko’s 80th death anniversary. The proceeds were used to build an on-campus memorial statue depicting the reunion of Hachiko and Ueno.

In 2009, following the release of Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, the Japanese Consulate in the US supported the erection of a Hachiko statue at the Woonsocket Depot Square. Woonsocket, Rhode Island was the location of the American movie.

Memorial Landmarks

Odate City’s manhole covers sport cartoon characters of the beloved Akita-inu.

Shortly after the dog’s death, a monument to its memory was erected next to Ueno’s tomb in Aoyama cemetery.

Also, the university’s National Museum of Nature and Science exhibits a taxidermy of the loyal dog with its very own fur.

In 2003, a mini community bus nicknamed “Hachiko-bus” started running four routes while playing the dog’s theme song, Hachiko-basu no uta.

Ceremonies and Events

On May 28, 1994, Japan’s Nippon Cultural Broadcasting played a recording of Hachiko’s bark lifted from an old record.

At the Shibuya Folk and Literary Shirane Memorial Museum, rare photos of Hachiko were part of the July 2012 Shin Shuzo Shiryoten, an exhibition of restored historical items.

The Yomiuri Shimbun published in November 2015 a newly discovered photo of Hachiko sprawled in front of Shibuya Station. It came from the collection of a bank employee in Tokyo who took the picture in 1934.

A little known fact about Hachiko’s history is that it belonged to a family, with Ueno as father and his partner, Yaeko Sakano, as mother. Before she passed away in 1961, Yaeko would occasionally visit the Akita-inu, who showed deep affection for her.

On May 19, 2016, the family reunited at the Aoyama Cemetery through a ceremony where some of Yaeko’s ashes were buried with Ueno and Hachiko.

March 8, the dog’s death date, is celebrated each year as Hachiko Day. A solemn ceremony is held at the Shibuya Station, with hundreds in attendance.

Arts and Culture

Hachiko has been featured in multiple media, not just in the two popular films mentioned above:

  • Taka-chan and I: A Dog’s Journey to Japan – a 1967 children’s book
  • Jurassic Bark episode of Futurama – an animated homage to Hachiko in 2002
  • Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog – Pamela S. Turner’s 2004 children’s book illustrated by Yan Nascimbene
  • Hachiko Waits – also published in 2004, this children’s book from writer Leaslea Newman and illustrator Machiyo Kodaira is also considered a short novel
  • The World Ends with You video game (2007) – the Hachiko statue, its legend, and its location are important elements in the game’s narrative
  • NEO: The World Ends with You (2021 sequel) – again, this features the Akita-inu’s statue

Hachiko's statue with a cat

The Pride and Joy of Japan

Many people see the value of owning a dog for reasons other than they are a cuddly companion.

Dog ownership has been linked to a longer life span and better socialization skills. It can reduce the adverse health impact of living alone as well.

Furthermore, studies have shown that having a dog can reduce allergies and asthmatic symptoms in children.

Dog owners describe their pet as their best friend. If we’re talking about Hachiko and its owner Hidesaburō Ueno, however, that would be an understatement.

Hachiko is hailed as the world’s most faithful dog for steadfastly awaiting its deceased owner’s return for almost ten years, until its own death.

This kind of devotion and loyalty is greatly admired by people around the world. These traits are what dog owners wish they could inspire in their own pets.

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Paul Andrews
https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-andrews-172490189/

A digital marketing expert by profession, Andrews is a gifted writer and animal lover at heart. A self-confessed "pawrent", Andrews is well-versed in all things dogs. He uses his years of experience of raising puppies into show-quality dogs to help guide first-time pet parents. He believes in spreading the joy that comes with being a dog dad and advocates more families to adopt pets.