Japan’s Beloved Hachikō

Hachiko statue, Tokyo

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.

Hachikō and Professor Ueno

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.

19 thoughts on “Japan’s Beloved Hachikō

  1. This movie really does dipict the loyality,and love that dogs have for their owners and their family. This is one of my favorite movies of all time….. I cry my eyes out every time I watch it!
    I am a big dog lover and have two dogs of my own, Zeus and Lucky. They are so funny, loving, and snuggly! I love them with all of my heart and soul! I have started a blog for my Rottweiler Zeus called Saving Zeus. He has a rare genetic disorder and we are trying to raise funds for the medical tests and treatment that he desperately needs. Also on my blog, I have funny stories and really cute photos of both of my boys. If you would like to help us save Zeus or would just like a laugh after reading a funny story, visit my page. Since I am just getting started on my blog, there will be many more stories to come so check back every once in a while!

  2. Hachiko’s story is heart-warming on a certain level, and loyalty is certainly a trait to be prized in both man and dog … but is this really a role model for anyone? Death, divorce, disaster, and job losses can separate us from people we love. If all we did was sit and wait and pine for them without ever moving on with our own lives, though, what good would we be to anyone? What good would it do them?

    My dog Rudy came to me as sort of a rescue; I am his fourth owner. His first owner died unexpectedly one evening while sitting in her easy chair watching TV, and he was alone with her body for a few days before neighbors came in to check. If he had decided to sit vigil for her outside her house or something for the rest of his life, he and I would never have found each other and created the happy life we have together. I am so grateful for his ability to move on from what must have been a confusing and frightening experience for him, and to bond again with someone who loves him and treats him wonderfully. Freezing in your tracks forever when death takes your loved ones from you is not an effective coping strategy and not an indicator of emotional health. Moving forward, letting the light in, living life to the fullest and finding love and happiness again are much better ways to honor their memory.

    Dogs are so good at “living in the moment” that one has to wonder, actually, what was wrong with Hachiko.

    • Well, I can certainly understand your point. Freezing in your tracks forever would be bad for either man or dog, but I don’t think that’s what Hachiko did exactly. He did continue to eat, drink and socialize, but it was on his terms. If he had wasted away, that might be a different story. Grieving is a very personal thing, for man or beast, the bond Hachiko shared with his owner was a very strong one and for him there was no other. This is something we see all the time. For example, when an older person passes away, depending on the relationship, it often happens that their other half soon passes as well. And while I’m not an expert on Japanese culture, I think that loyalty is a highly prized trait and as a nation it’s something they treasure above all else. I can tell you that since I’ve had my blog, Hachiko is the number one search term across the board with the 43 countries that have visited it, so that must mean the world holds him in high regard even now. Maybe because loyalty is at an all-time low? For the most part, the human race loves dogs and I think the highest compliment they can give to us is their loyalty within that special relationship. It’s great that you have been able to give Rudy a happy life after his sad circumstances, but I think every dog is different. Rather than saying something was wrong with Hachiko, I think that what made him unique was his ability to connect in such a human way and his choice of grieving to honor that connection.

      • It is a very appealing story on its face, I agree–I saw the Richard Gere movie, too, and I cried at the end when the faithful dog was finally reunited with his beloved human. I just think on a deeper level, the story reveals something more sad than admirable. There’s a fine line between loyalty (honoring a memory for a lifetime) and martyrdom (wasting a life). It might also be a bit anthropomorphic to say Hachiko “chose” to “grieve.” Dogs are essentially very simple creatures. Lovable as all heck, but simple.

        I don’t mean to take anything away from this story or your post, just to point out that different people draw different lessons from the same set of facts, and my interpretation may be no more valid than any other.

  3. I so agree with you Erica! Hachi loved his friend so much that he would wait an eternity for him to return one day, in life or after death. It breaks my heart though just knowing that he could not find another human to love … but then again … no one would ever compare to his owner.
    True love and loyalty; there is nothing greater. I know they are together now and will never be apart again!

  4. Erica – i hope and pray that all is well with Zeus! I definitely plan to view your sight and put on my facebook page. God Bless you and you’re boys.

  5. Im so terribly sorry for your loss Erica. I just read about Zeus and my heart and prayers are with you and your family! I know he must of had a wonderful and happy life while he was with you and your family.
    Gods speed

    • Hi Laurie: thanks so much for your kind message, but the comment about Zeus was from someone else, he wasn’t my dog. But yes, so very very sad. The family who owned him certainly did everything they could to try and save him, but sadly sometimes it’s beyond us. Coincidentally, I lost one of my dogs just a week or so before Zeus passed away. So I like to think about my boy Nicholas now frolicking with Zeus! But thank you again for your compassion and thoughtful words :-)

  6. Pingback: Hachikō visits Montréal |

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