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Hachiko: The Loyal Dog in Shibuya

James LauJames Lau
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June 26, 2023
The Hachiko statue in Shibuya Station.

Hachiko was a beloved Japanese Akita dog who became famous for being loyal to his master, a renowned college professor. We’ll explore the bond between Hachiko and his owner, uncover exciting facts about Hachiko, and discover his enduring legacy.

Who was Hachiko?

He was born as Hachi in Odate, Akita, in 1923. Hachi became Professor Hidesaburo Ueno’s faithful companion, a Tokyo Imperial University professor, now known as Tokyo University.

Eventually, they developed a deep bond. As a result, they had a daily routine. Hachi would accompany his owner to the Shibuya Station in Tokyo every morning. Afterward, he would eagerly await his return in the evening.

Hachiko’s Family

Yaeko Sakano was Professor Ueno’s domestic partner for about a decade before his passing. Despite the family’s choice of a bride for him, Hidesaburo and Yaeko never legally married. Instead, they established a household together in Shibuya after their meeting.

Hachiko with his human family (the Uenos) in a group photo.
The Ueno family cherished their time with Hachiko. Image via Wikicommons

Contrary to popular belief, Yaeko and Hachiko had a cordial relationship. Following Hidesaburo’s death, Yaeko cared for the beloved Akita the best she could. The sculptor responsible for the famous Hachiko statue outside Shibuya station often brought the subject into his studio to capture a good pose.

During one of these sessions, although frail, Hachiko enthusiastically greeted Yaeko when she arrived. According to the sculptor’s son, the statue is based on Hachiko’s appearance during that moment.

Professor Ueno’s Final Lecture

On May 21, 1925, Professor Ueno suffered a stroke and passed away during one of his lectures. Hachiko, devastated by the loss, refused to eat for three days. Even on the day of Professor Ueno’s wake, held on the 25th, Hachiko, accompanied by his puppy siblings John and S, went to Shibuya Station to welcome his late owner.

Hachiko near the end of his life with his new family.
Hachiko stayed with a different family after Ueno passed away. Image via Wikicommons

Later, Hachiko was given to a relative of Yaeko, who owned a kimono shop in Nihonbashi. However, due to his friendly nature, Hachiko would eagerly jump on any customer who entered the shop, causing difficulties for the business.

As a result, he was moved to Asakusa. However, Hachiko’s longing for Ueno was so intense that he often escaped during walks and went to Shibuya. Ultimately, Hachiko was returned to Ueno’s residence in Shibuya, but his energetic nature posed challenges as he ran through the nearby fields.

Officials decided to place Hachiko under the care of Kobayashi Kikusaburo, a gardener who worked at the Ueno residence in Yoyogi, located next to Shibuya. He moved to the Kobayashi residence in the autumn of 1927, two years after Professor Ueno’s passing. From then onwards, Hachiko waited at Shibuya Station during the hours when Professor Ueno used to return home.

A colorized photo of Asakusa in the early 20th Century.
Asakusa became Hachiko’s second home. Image via Time Out

Despite the loving care he received from Kobayashi, Hachiko would visit Shibuya Station, observe the passersby, and then return to Kobayashi’s home for meals before heading back to Shibuya Station again. Whenever Hachiko visited Shibuya Station, he would always stop at the former Ueno residence and peek inside through the window.

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Hachiko’s Enduring Legacy

The tale of Hachiko and his steady loyalty captivated the people of Japan and the entire world. In 1934, recognizing the profound impact of Hachiko’s story, famed sculptor Teru Ando built the first statue of Hachiko for Shibuya Station one year before the dog passed away. However, officials repurposed the statue for military efforts in 1944, using it to create a steam locomotive during WWII.

Fortunately, Teru’s son, Takeshi Ando, made a second sculpture and unveiled it on August 15, 1948, where it still stands today. The statue quickly became a meeting point for people, so the closest station exit was named “Hachiko Exit.” It serves as a focal point for heartfelt reunions and farewells, where loved ones can meet under the watchful eyes of the iconic dog.

Hachiko also has four other statues: one in his birthplace of Odate at the train station, another in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, one in front of Hisai Station, and one located in Tsu, Mie, which was Ueno’s birthplace. However, the most notable statue is near Tokyo University, and it finally shows a happy ending for the pair!

Hachiko Reunites With His Master

On March 8, 2015, Tokyo University’s Faculty of Agriculture unveiled a statue that portrays Professor Ueno reuniting with Hachiko to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Hachiko’s passing. 

The statue’s creation was made possible by collaborating with the Faculty of Agriculture and an online charity. It was sculpted by Tsutomu Ueda, an artist from Nagoya.

It portrays Hachiko enthusiastically greeting his master, Ueno, who is depicted wearing a long trench coat and hat with a briefcase placed on the ground. The sculpture beautifully captures the heartwarming moment of their reunion, with Ueno embracing his loyal dog with open arms.

A statue of Professor Ueno reuniting with Hachiko the Loyal Dog, near Tokyo University.
Ueno and Hachiko reunited in 2015. Image via Time Out

Hachiko’s story continues to inspire and resonate through various forms of media. Many books, films, and documentaries tell the tale of this faithful dog, ensuring that his legacy would endure for generations to come. 

The profound emotions Hachiko’s story evokes touch people from different corners of the globe. His story goes past cultural boundaries, reminding us of the love, devotion, and unbreakable bond between humans and animals! Have you ever seen the Hachiko statue in Tokyo? Maybe you have a dog story of your own! Let us know in the comments below!

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