Just outside one of the five exits of Tokyo's Shibuya Station is a bronze statue of a dog named Hachiko. It is one of the most popular meeting points in the immense city of Tokyo. Everyday thousands of people walk past it, stand in front of it, snap a picture or chat around with friends. To understand why the statue of a dog is so famous in a city the size of Tokyo, where there is certainly no shortage of hangouts, you have to hear his story.
Hachiko was a golden-brown Akita dog born in 1923 on a farm near the city of Ōdate, in Akita Prefecture. He was picked up by Professor Hidesaburo Ueno who took him home to his house not far from Shibuya Station, and he showed himself to be a good and kind master. The dog adored him. Every morning as the professor headed off to work, Hachiko would accompany his master, walking along with him as far as Shibuya Station. He would watch him buy his ticket and disappear into the station. Hachiko would then sit down in the small square in front of the station and wait for his master’s return from work in the late afternoon.
The statue of Hachiko outside Tokyo's Shibuya Station. Photo credit
This became a daily routine for a year until one day in May 1925, when Professor Ueno did not return. Unbeknown to Hachiko, his master had suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage and died, leaving Hachiko waiting, watching trains arrive and hoping for a reunion that would never happen. Each day for the next nine years, nine months and fifteen days, Hachiko appeared precisely when the train was due at the station and awaited Ueno's return. The story of the dog that never gave up gained a lot of attention from local and national news, inspiring many people to visit Hachiko at Shibuya Station to offer treats. During these years he was taken care of by the professor's relatives but he never gave up the vigil at the station for his master.
Hachiko’s legendary faithfulness became a national symbol of loyalty that impressed the people of Japan as a spirit of family loyalty all should strive to achieve. Teachers and parents used Hachiko's vigil as an example for children to follow.
Left: Hachikō in his later years. Right: Last known photo of Hachiko - pictured with his owner's wife Yaeko Ueno (front row, second from right) and station staff in mourning in Tokyo on March 8, 1935.
Eventually, Hachiko himself died on March 8, 1935. A year before his death, a bronze statue in his likeness was erected at Shibuya Station, and Hachiko himself was present at its unveiling. During the Second World War, the statue was torn down and melted to make ammunition, so a new one was erected in 1948 once the war ended. Each year on April 8, Hachiko's devotion is honored with a solemn ceremony of remembrance at Tokyo's Shibuya railroad station.
In addition to the Hachiko Statue at Shibuya Station, there are statues in Hachiko's home town, outside the Odate Station, and another one in front of the Akita Dog Museum. The University of Tokyo also erected another statue of Hachiko playing with his master, the professor. The exact spot where Hachiko waited in the train station is permanently marked with bronze paw-prints and text in Japanese explaining his loyalty. There is also a monument to Hachiko next to his master's grave in Aoyama cemetery. The Shibuya Station exit outside which Hachiko stood guard was named after him. He himself remains preserved and on display at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo.
Hachiko’s story was brought to the world at large by the 2009 Hollywood movie Hachi: A Dog's Tale, where Richard Gere played the character of Professor Hidesaburo Ueno.
The Hachiko Wall at the Shibuya Station. Photo credit
A Hachiko valve cover located only a few feet way from the actual statue. Photo credit
Hachikō exhibited at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno. It's hard to tell from the picture, but he was actually a pretty big dog. Photo credit
Hachiko's monument on the side of Professor Ueno's grave in the Aoyama Cemetery, Minato, Tokyo. Photo credit
A statue of Hachiko greeting his master at The University of Tokyo’s campus. Photo credit
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