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Hachikō The Faithful Dog - a National Symbol

Hachikō (November 10, 1923 – March 8, 1935) was an Akita dog born on a farm near the city of Ōdate, Akita Prefecture, Japan. He is remembered for his remarkable loyalty to his owner which continued for nearly ten years after his owner's death.

Hachikō is known in Japanese as chūken Hachikō ("faithful dog Hachikō") — hachi meaning eight, and a suffix kō meaning affection. During his lifetime the dog was held up in Japanese culture as an example of loyalty and fidelity. After his death he continues to be remembered in worldwide popular culture with statues, movies, books, and appearances in various media.

HISTORY

In 1924, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor at the University of Tokyo, took Hachikō, a golden brown Akita, as a pet. During his owner's life, Hachikō greeted him at the end of each day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued their daily routine until May 1925, when Professor Ueno did not return. The professor had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died, never returning to the train station where Hachikō was waiting. 


Each day for the next nine years, nine months and fifteen days, Hachikō awaited Ueno's return, appearing precisely when the train was due at the station.
Hachiko relaxing in front of Shibuya Station (1934)
Hachikō attracted the attention of other commuters. Many of the people who frequented the Shibuya train station had seen Hachikō and Professor Ueno together each day. Initial reactions from the people, especially from those working at the station, were not necessarily friendly. However, after the first appearance of the article about him on October 4, 1932, people started to bring Hachikō treats and food to nourish him during his wait. 

RISE TO PUBLIC FIGURE

In 1932, one of Ueno's students Hirokichi Saito (who developed expertise on the Akita breed) saw the dog at the station and followed him to the Kobayashi home (the home of Professor Ueno's former gardener) 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 that only 30 purebred Akitas remained, including Hachikō from Shibuya Station.

He returned frequently to visit Hachikō and over the years published several articles about the dog's remarkable loyalty. In 1932, one of these articles, published in the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun, placed the dog in 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 - pictured with his owner's wife Yaeko Ueno 
Eventually, Hachikō's legendary faithfulness became a national symbol of loyalty, particularly to the person and institution of the Emperor. 

Hachikō died on March 8, 1935 at the approximate age of 12 based on his date of birth. He was found on a street in Shibuya. 

In March 2011, scientists finally settled the cause of death of Hachikō: the dog had both terminal cancer and a filaria infection. 


HACHIKO’S LEGACY

After his death, Hachikō's remains were cremated and his ashes were buried in Aoyama Cemetery, Minato, Tokyo where they rest beside those of Hachikō's beloved master, Professor Ueno. Hachikō's fur, which was preserved after his death and is now on permanent display at the National Science Museum of Japan 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.
In 1948, the Society for Recreating the Hachikō Statue commissioned the son of the original artist, to make a second statue. When the new statue appeared, a dedication ceremony occurred. The new statue, which was erected in August 1948, still stands and is a popular meeting spot. The station entrance near this statue is named "Hachikō-guchi", meaning "The Hachikō Entrance/Exit", and is one of Shibuya Station's five exits.

Each year on April 8, Hachikō's devotion is honored with a solemn ceremony of remembrance. Hundreds of dog lovers often turn out to honour his memory and loyalty. 

HACHI IN POPULAR CULTURE

In 1994, the Nippon Cultural Broadcasting 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!

Hachikō was the subject of the 1987 movie "The Tale of Hachiko" directed by Seijirō Kōyama, which told the story of his life from his birth up until his death and imagined spiritual reunion with his master. This was considered a blockbuster success in Japan!


"Hachi: A Dog's Tale", released in August 2009, is an American movie version directed by Lasse Hallström and starring actor Richard Gere. The story focused on Hachikō and his relationship with an American professor and his family following the same basic story. 



Hachikō is also the subject of a 2004 children's book entitled "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 also published in 2004."Hachiko Waits" was released in paperback by Square Fish (an imprint of MacMillan) in 2008.

Hachikō is featured prominently in the 2008 novel "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" by David Wroblewski. 

In 2015, the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Tokyo constructed a bronze statue, depicting Ueno returning to meet Hachikō.
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