Hachikō (ハチ公, Hachikō November 10, 1923 – March 8, 1935), known in Japanese as chūken Hachikō (忠犬 ハチ公, chūken Hachikō lit. ‘faithful dog Hachikō’), was an Akita dog born in the city of Odate, Akita Prefecture remembered for his loyalty to his master.
In 1924, Hachikō was brought to Tokyo by his owner, Hidesamurō Ueno (上野英三郎), a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo. During his owner’s life, Hachikō saw him off from the front door and greeted him at the end of the day at the nearby Shibuya Station.
Even after Ueno’s death in May 1925, Hachikō returned every day to the station to wait for him, and did so for the next 10 years. In 1928, a new station master came to Shibuya Station who grew fond of the dog and allowed him free run of the facility. Hachikō still kept his schedule, but also was allowed to remain in the station throughout the day, sleeping in a storeroom set aside for him by the new station master.
Hachikō’s devotion to his lost master moved those around him, who nicknamed him ‘faithful dog‘. Others at the station initially thought he was waiting for something else or roaming around but later realized he was waiting for its dead owner. So the vendors there used to give some bits of food and water. Others doubted it and said the dog might have come because of the food the vendors provided him. But he appeared only in the evening time, precisely when the train was due at the station.
That same year, another of Ueno’s former students (who had become something of an expert on Akitas) saw the dog at the station and followed him to the Kobayashi home where he learned the history of Hachikō’s life. Shortly after this meeting, the former student published a documented census of Akitas in Japan. His research found only 30 purebred Akitas remaining, including Hachikō from Shibuya Station.Ueno’s former student returned frequently to visit the dog and over the years published several articles about Hachikō’s remarkable loyalty. In 1932 one of these articles, published in Tokyo’s largest newspaper, threw the dog into the national spotlight. Hachikō became a national sensation. His faithfulness to his master’s memory impressed the people of Japan as a spirit of family loyalty all should strive to achieve. Teachers and parents used Hachikō’s vigil as an example for children to follow. A well-known Japanese artist rendered a sculpture of the dog, and throughout the country a new awareness of the Akita breed grew.
Hachikō died on March 8, 1935, of filariasis (heartworm). His stuffed and mounted remains are kept at the National Science Museum in Ueno Tokyo.
In April 1934, a bronze statue in his likeness was erected at Shibuya Station, and Hachikō himself was present at its unveiling. The statue was recycled for the war effort during World War II. After the war, Hachikō was not forgotten. In 1948 The Society for Recreating the Hachikō Statue commissioned Takeshi Ando, son of the original artist who had since died, to make a second statue. The new statue, which was erected in August 1948, still stands and is an extremely popular meeting spot. The station entrance near this statue is named “Hachikō-guchi”, meaning “The Hachikō Exit”, and is one of Shibuya Station’s five exits.
A similar statue stands in Hachikō’s hometown, in front of Odate 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.
The Japan Times played a practical joke on readers by reporting that the bronze statue was stolen a little before 2AM 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.
Hachiko in the Media
Hachikō was the subject of the 1987 movie ‘Hachikō Monogatari’, which told the story of his life from his birth up until his death and imagined spiritual reunion with his master, the Professor. He is also the subject of a 2004 children’s book named ‘Hachikō: the true story of a loyal dog‘, written by Pamela S. Turner and illustrated by Yan Nascimbene. Another children’s book, a short novel for readers of all ages called ‘HACHIKO WAITS‘, written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Machiyo Kodaira was published by Henry Holt & Co. in 2004.
In 1994, the Culture Broadcasting Network (CBN) 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. This event was testimony to Hachikō’s continuing popularity.