I suppose that by now most people are well acquainted with the story of Japan’s famous Akita Hachikō, but how can a blog titled Dogs Make Everything Better not include it? It must! First of all, it’s a true story. Second, it has to be the number one example of a dog’s fierce loyalty to his friend and the powerful bond that can exist between dog and man. And third, Hachikō is especially the winner now that the tale of Edinburgh’s poor little Greyfriar’s Bobby has been pretty much debunked. Boy, what a dagger that was!
For those of you that don’t know about Hachikō, here’s the story. By the way, there is a movie that was released in 2010 directed by Lasse Hallström called Hachi starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen, but it’s loosely based on the true story. The 1987 Japanese film Hachi-kō is the real deal and I’m hoping to see it soon. Um, with subtitles.
The story begins in Tokyo in 1924. A professor at Tokyo University by the name of Hidesaburō Ueno acquired Hachikō to be his dog, a golden brown Akita. Each day the pair would walk to Shibuya Station together, where Professor Ueno would take the train to work. When he would arrive back at the station at the end of the day, Hachikō would always be there at the precise time to meet him and together they would walk home. This continued until one day in May 1925 when Professor Ueno suffered a cerebral hemorrhage at work and died. For the next nine years the ever loyal Hachikō continued to arrive at the station each afternoon at the same time, hopeful that Professor Ueno would once again step off the train.
Fellow commuters noticed Hachikō waiting and remembered seeing Professor Ueno with the dog each day. Eventually they started bringing him food and treats. Newspaper articles were published, and before long Hachikō became a national symbol of family loyalty for the Japanese people. Children were taught to honor and respect Hachikō’s remarkable vigil and to recognize it as an example for them to follow. Before long, the nation’s interest and awareness in the honorable Akita breed also grew.
In the spring of 1934, a bronze statue was erected outside the Shibuya Station and Hachikō himself was present for its unveiling. The spot where Hachikō waited in the train station is permanently marked with bronze paw prints and text in Japanese detailing his lifelong loyalty. During World War II the statue was sacrificed and melted for the war effort, but a replacement was made and erected in 1948. Each year on April 8, a solemn ceremony takes place at Shibuya Station to honor Hachikō, attracting hundreds of dog owners to pay their respects. And last month, rare photos from Hachikō’s life were shown at the Shibuya Folk and Literary Shirane Memorial Museum in Shibuya Ward, the show wrapping up on July 22.
Once again, it’s a dog at the helm showing us how we should behave and honor the special people in our lives. So thanks for stepping up, Hachikō. Sure wish you could come back, and this time maybe run for President?
Thanks to Wikipedia, for some facts.
Erica Preo is CEO & Creative Director of Pantofola, pure luxury Italian goods for dogs.